Helena School District Announcements

Vigilante Day Celebration

posted on 5/5/2008


The Vigilante Day Parade was held at noon last Friday which indicates students and staff members are entering the final month of school and they will participate in numerous culminating activities. After watching the parade and related activities for over the last decade, I appreciate the significance of the Vigilante Day tradition to the Helena community. The first parade was held in 1924 and was initiated by Albert J. Roberts, a longtime principal of Helena High School. The parade was initiated in an effort to redirect destructive student activity that was taking place each spring in the Helena community. The purpose of the parade is to celebrate the history and culture of Helena and engage the students in constructive activities. Over the last eighty plus years, the parade has gone through many changes, however, there is no doubt this event has become a tradition that is understood and embraced by generations of Helena citizens. I was attending a Rotary meeting last week and a senior member of the service club recounted his experiences creating the entry in the parade when he attended high school and told how he has assisted families and friends over the years.

Efforts were made this spring by the school district staff to diversify the students’ entries and enhance the historical significance of the presentations. Although there is always some resistance to change, the overall impression of the parade was positive. I heard from several community members they thought it was a great parade and the students did a nice job. My observation each year is that the students appear to have a lot of fun and members of the Helena community who gather to celebrate this long standing tradition are delighted to see the students’ parade through historical Last Chance Gulch. I appreciate the effort of administrators, staff and volunteers who organize and supervise the Vigilante Day activities to assure a positive experience for the students and community.

In recent years, the Helena Education Foundation added a new twist to the Vigilante Day celebration by offering unique educational programs at both high schools for students who attend school on the Thursday of Vigilante Week instead of working on the parade entries. The topic this year was on personal finance and employment for the high school students. Each year the topics are high interest and relevant to young adults. The response to the Vigilante Academy has been positive and it is nice to see the Helena Education Foundation enrich the Vigilante experience for students.

Visitors to the community last Friday at noon might have struggled to understand the significance of the Vigilante Day celebration. I admit it took some time for me to appreciate and embrace the community event organized and hosted by the public schools. However, now I understand this long standing tradition is a celebration of Helena’s history by the students and community. The Vigilante Day events are also a celebration of youth in our community. Each year, individuals attend the parade to be entertained and demonstrate their support for the students who will some day return to Last Chance Gulch and participate in the community celebration with their children, grandchildren and friends. Research literature clearly reports the value added to the growth and development of children when family and community are involved and supportive. Helena is a very special place to live and raise a family because the community recognizes and values youth and education.

Bruce Messinger
Superintendent of Schools
E-mail: bmessinger@helena.k12.mt.us
Phone: 324-2001

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