Co-valedictorian dons a piece of Glenwood history for graduation |

Co-valedictorian dons a piece of Glenwood history for graduation

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – McKenna Casey had some extra incentive to close out her Glenwood Springs High School education at the top of her class.

After her grandmother and grandfather both passed away in 2007, the family was cleaning out their house when they found a dress with a note attached to it.

It was McKenna’s great-grandmother Jeannette Smith’s graduation dress, which had been hand-made for her by a neighbor lady specially for Smith’s 1919 graduation from Garfield County High School in Glenwood Springs. She was the class valedictorian.

“At that point, I still had all A’s and thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could maintain that and be valedictorian of my class and wear the same dress to graduation,” said McKenna, who was finishing up her junior year at the time. “I didn’t want to get too excited, because I still had two semesters of hard classes to take.”

She accomplished her goal, graduating as one of 131 members of the GSHS Class of 2010 Saturday, and one of seven class co-valedictorians.

True to her plan, she wore her great-grandmother’s dress beneath her graduation gown.

“It’s very special,” said McKenna’s mother, Connie Casey, who also graduated from Glenwood Springs High in 1975. “My daughter started dreaming about being valedictorian when she was a little girl. And then, to get to wear this dress is a very meaningful thing for our whole family.”

A little bit of Glenwood Springs history also accompanied McKenna when she walked across the stage Saturday to receive her diploma.

Smith came to Glenwood Springs in a covered wagon as a baby, and her father ran the Smith Brothers General Store. Her future husband, Wesley Curtis, was the Class of 1919 salutatorian.

McKenna was joined in giving the valedictorian address Saturday by fellow co-valedictorians Taylor Goodstein, Megan Gould, Bryann Milhorn, Allison Rippy, Cassidy Robison and Rachel Sobke.

The septet took turns piecing together a puzzle with 2010 written on it, along with a painting of the class flower, the daffodil. Each member of the graduating class was asked beforehand to scroll a single word on the puzzle pieces describing themselves – words like brave, bold, determined. Each of the valedictorians picked a word to focus on in their address.

“Resolve to contribute to the puzzle of life,” Milhorn offered. “Only you can determine what you will be.”

Longtime Glenwood Springs teacher Lorie Beattie-Courier gave the commencement address. After 36 years of teaching, she’s retiring, again, and said she felt a common bond with the Class of 2010.

“We’re both finally graduating,” she said. “I’m proud to join the Class of 2010 as we move forward together.”

But, while the college-bound graduates may be reading [Geoffrey] Chaucer next year, she said she’ll be content to read Dr. Seuss to her new grand baby.

“We are facing difficult times that will require courage and optimism,” Beattie-Courier advised the graduates. “Our future is in your hands … be positive about the possibilities ahead.”

Beattie-Courier also took the letters in the title of this year’s class song, “Young Forever” by Jay-Z/Mr. Hudson, to arrive at a few words of wisdom and inspiration for the graduates.

“Never forget the joy of being young,” she said. “We all have the choice to remain young at heart … we can get older, but we sure don’t have to grow up.”

Beattie-Courier also recalled some of the last words of her mother before her recent death. After hearing the beautiful sounds from a harp, she said her mother commented that she was, “awe struck … struck with awe.”

She used those same words to describe the Class of 2010.

“We are awe struck by you … we are struck with awe.”

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