The traditional elements were all present for Glenwood Springs High School’s graduation on Saturday afternoon — caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance, and speeches on the infinite possibilities open to the graduates. But the class of 2014 was born well after the collapse of the Soviet Union, grew up in a digital era and, as principal Paul Freeman observed, will likely be in the workforce until 2050 or so — provided social security’s still around by then.
They had a few touches of their own to remind the crowd that the times are changing.
After posing for a selfie on stage, the seven valedictorians centered their speeches around seven horcruxes, objects of great magical power and significance in the popular Harry Potter book and film series.
The seemingly flippant theme proved a useful basis for reflection. Jose Velasquez used Tom Riddle’s diary to illustrate the importance of keeping track of where you’ve been and how far you come, while Taylor Kontour encouraged grads not to be afraid to reinvent themselves, like the skin-shedding serpent Nagini.
Mackenzie Fuller added an upbeat interpretation to a dark artifact, Marvalo Gaunt’s ring, which had the power to resurrect but only produced pale reflections.
“Life is most vivid in the moment,” she said.
Patrick Gucwa contributed a final dimension to the careful balance of present, past, and future tense with Salazar Slytherin’s locket, encouraging his classmates to remember those who supported them.
Gucwa added a dig at the district’s standards-based education system. “This is GSHS, so if I fail my speech today, I can just reassess,” he quipped, adding that he’d given the speech the same respect as a major term paper by writing it the night before.
Karros Huang was more serious in his assessment of Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, which was believed to impart great knowledge and wisdom on its wearer.
“What matters most at the end of the day is that you can take your knowledge and apply it in the real world,” he asserted.
Andrew Schied took a “glass half full” approach to Helga Hufflepuff’s cup. “Even though there are bad things about the present, the truth is it’s only temporary,” he said. Sierra Martin echoed the sentiment with the final horcrux — Harry Potter himself. “Your future lies in your own hands,” she said. “Don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something.”
Martin concluded the theme with a quote from Potter character Albus Dumbledore: “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
Craig Denny, the school’s athletic director who has fought Burkitts Lymphoma over the last year, opted to high five every one of the 171 graduates while “A Good Day to Be Alive” played over the loudspeaker before he settled in to a more traditional in his keynote address.
“Make the most of the situation you’re in,” he told the graduates, “It will help you, and more importantly, it will help the people around you.”
Marimar Arvizo got the last word before the graduates flipped their tassels, tossed their caps, and marched into adulthood. Arvizo, a GSHS student who had an early graduation and was unable the main event due to her own illness, sent a message which was read aloud.
“I love you guys and I’m proud of all of you as well as myself,” it said.