BILLINGS — Billings West High School sophomore Jeremiah Yates has made a splash in the student community, becoming the first student to provide a weekly weather forecast during Wednesday school announcements.
"We will be elegant and sunny through all the weekend. Get out and enjoy the beginning of the fall season," said Yates to start off his weather announcement on Wednesday.
Yates started doing the weekly weather announcement last spring. Since then he has researched, written and delivered a concise weather report to his classmates over the school PA system. He always makes sure to pepper in a weather-related joke.
“Why did the woman go outdoors with her purse open? Because, she expects some change in the weather," Yates said, repeating the first-ever joke from his weather announcement.
It's safe to say Yates has an intense interest in weather, sparked because of his special needs. Jeremiah has an aversion to the loud noise of thunder and learned more about meteorology to quell his fears.
“I tried to do my best today," Yates said.
The idea to get Yates informing his peers about the weekly weather was sparked at a student council meeting last school year. Yates served on student council, along with then-senior class president, Jack Wyss.
Wyss said the weather announcement was a way for students with special needs to be seen and involved in the school community.
"I hope that Jeremiah’s example proves to not just the administration or the kids, but to the entire community of West High and of Billings that special needs kids deserve to be seen. They deserve to be heard and at the end of the day, they matter," said Wyss, who now studies government at Harvard University.
Wyss was in Yates corner, rooting him on every Wednesday until he graduated last year. At Yates' first announcement last year, he was wracked with nerves, according to Wyss.
"He was terribly, terribly nervous. He took it so seriously and threw his entire weight into it. He had so much heart, but I could tell he was super nervous about having to actually read it on the announcements. Sort of like, being there for him. Being a point of comfort for him and not just that first time, but the rest of the year," Wyss said.
Wyss said the weather announcements with Yates were definitely a highlight of Wyss's senior year. Wyss became fast friends with Yates and the West High community welcomed Yates with open arms.
“Not only was it just West High sort of came around to Jeremiah, but Jeremiah sort of reciprocated that energy by forming a relationship with as many people as he possibly could," Wyss said.
"He also knew everybody by name. Which I thought was very telling as to the type of person that he is. He knew you by name and he knew things about you that you had maybe forgotten that you told him."
In a regular school day, Yates spends a majority of his time in Special Education Teacher Scott Felchle's classroom. But Yates gets out and about with his job delivering slips to classrooms across the school and gets active in an adaptive PE class.
Felchle said with the help of the school administration and all of the teachers at West, they’ve been able to work the weather segment into Yates's education plan. In weathercasting, Jeremiah learns social skills, professionalism, English writing, new vocabulary words and science, Felchle said.
“I think it’s just the uniqueness of students that are in my classroom, where I think they grasp one concept and get really interested in it. Being able to take that and expand and twist on it is what’s the amazing part about my job. It’s fun. It’s not just the same day every day. I get to change things up with him," Felchle said.
Felchle said the student body is always positive to Yates, often giving him high fives and offering positive feedback.
“For him to have the comforting zone, knowing that he feels like he’s being successful and that he is really doing a good job. And he tries at it. There’s a lot of behind the scenes that nobody knows how much work goes on that he actually puts into it every Monday and Tuesday before he has to prep for the next week," Felchle said.
It takes a lot of guts for anyone to speak in front of thousands of their peers, let alone if you have special needs. Felchle said he hopes the lessons taught to Yates will help him lead an independent life after high school.
“These kids want to be able to go out and have a job and collect a paycheck. They have to have the appropriate skills that are going to allow them to be successful living on their own independently. If we could possibly do that. I think that is one major step that I can continue with," Felchle said.
During his weather reports in the West High front office, Yates is dressed to the nines, decked out in a suit just like the pros. When not at school, Yates keeps a close eye on two TV channels: The Weather Channel, and Q2.
Yates is a huge fan of the Q2 weather team and its multiple daily broadcasts. When it's time for weather announcements, Yates might as well be a bonafide MTN News reporter. He wears a homemade MTN News name tag and often carries faux microphone and news camera affixed with the MTN News logo.
The weather Wednesday this week would hold a special surprise.
A few weeks ago, Yates sent a letter to Q2's Chief Meteorologist Ed McIntosh, asking if he would come to school and help Yates provide the weather announcement. With the help of West High Counselor Kim Petersen, the Q2 crew organized a surprise visit.
McIntosh laid in wait to hear Yates wrap up a flawless weather announcement. Petersen and Yates have a tradition after announcements: she'll ask Yates who's better, her or Ed McIntosh. Every single time, McIntosh is the clear winner.
So when Petersen asked the question again on Wednesday, Yates had his socks blown off and got to meet McIntosh.
“He was the greatest weatherman I’ve ever had in my life," Yates said.
As a parting gift for Yates, McIntosh offered up his neck tie, patterned with sunshine and rain clouds, so all the future weather Wednesdays can be delivered in style.
Click here to view the latest temperatures and forecast at ktvq.com