A little over a year ago, I sat down to write a speech for the final graduating class of East Central. Here is what I left the audience with:

“Now before I conclude, I would like to invite everyone in the audience to take a minute, use your 5 senses and remember what East Central has meant to you. Did you come to school every morning and greet the janitors by name? Or can you remember rushing to the window to watch the band march to the famous and familiar beat of our cadence? I bet you can still feel that great taste of dirt or lime as you scored at home plate for your Raiders.

"Maybe you remember the smell of school made buns in the morning or can feel your heart beating as you ran on to these hardwood floors. Class of 2011: we are the last to walk down the green and yellow hallways of East Central, and the final to step onto this stage in our green gowns and gold tassels. No longer will there be a class who gets to graduate with all their friends they grew up with from the Miles and Sabula area.”

To this day I stand by my words. I am writing today to apologize to children who have endured the pain of the past two years as you have seen communities, families, and friends ripped apart. I’m honestly sorry you will not remember the same great memories of East Central as I did. 

Growing up, I saw the junior and high schoolers as a sort of higher power, a group of gods if you will; a group of students to look up to and dream of becoming someday. I am disturbed you cannot rush to the window and look at your role models marching in the band as the cadence is played or give a round of applause while the choir rehearses for a concert. It is unsettling knowing that you will never know the pride I felt playing baseball at Miller Field or basketball in the Miles gym.  

I am saddened you will not graduate with your friends from your own community. It is hard for me to fathom you will have to wait until you are in the seventh grade to witness a true homecoming.  

With this letter, I may be attacked on Facebook or in the newspaper like countless others have already experienced, and the attackers may very well be the people I respected as my educators; I’m fully aware of what can and will happen once my opinion is printed on these black and white pages. 

But before statements and whispers begin, remember one thing - you are the ones that taught me to stand up for what I believe in. I find no shame in feeling sorry for the elementary students at East Central.

Coming home from college after my first semester, I thought students were already on winter break because there were no cars at the school; the harsh reality hit me like a ton of bricks. 

East Central has made me who I am today - I will never find shame in calling myself a Raider, but voting “No” to Easton Valley is not saving the East Central I knew; it’s saving an East Central where elementary students don’t even have a concept of what they are missing out on.

Like fellow East Central alum Norlin Mommsen said, “A “Yes Vote” means that you would like to give the Easton Valley School concept a try. The chances of voting no and saving EC are as high as voting no and winning a car. Zero.” 

Although we may not be able to see, taste, smell, touch, or hear all the things we used to associate with East Central High School, it is time for us to relish the memories of what East Central truly once was and create new exciting traditions in our towns. It is time to use your five senses to make the educated, correct decision. 

Vote “Yes” to Easton Valley and allow the children to fill the hallways of our school once again, march around our towns, sing in the gyms, play ball on our fields, as a result of our new school, Easton Valley.  Do not prevent children from building their own pride in our communities.  

As I look over at the empty school grounds in Miles, I am excited thinking of the new Easton Valley traditions that will replace the emptiness I see there now.

I look forward to a new school our communities can support with pride.

Taylor Keeney,

East Central Class of 2011