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High schools bid adieu to grads of 2002

Tamie MeckStaff Writer

Graduating from high school is a pivotal point in life, accomplished through hard work and dedication.When one graduates at the top of his or her class by earning consecutively high grades, offering service to school and community, and remaining dedicated to self and others, that accomplishment deserves special recognition.The Post Independent interviewed valedictorians and salutatorians from Basalt to Rifle to find out what makes them so successful and to hear what they have planned for the near future.None of the students took full credit for his or her success. As Audra Dobbs, Glenwood Springs High School valedictorian, so aptly put it in thanking her teachers, counselors, coaches, friends, and, above all, her mother, Ann, for her success: “Most people don’t realize how many people it takes for one person to succeed.”Even so, it takes an inner drive to maintain an A average semester after semester, year after year, while participating in sports, clubs and competitions, and often working a before- or after-school or weekend job.Without inner strength and dedication, none of these students would be where they are today. Their lists of accomplishments are much too extensive to print here, but we hope we have captured the highlights of their school careers.Congratulations to all graduating members of the class of 2002. Now it’s time to meet these students and find out what it takes to be at the top of their class.Basalt High SchoolValedictorian Darren Camas is the son of Neil and Melody Camas of El Jebel. He is this year’s winner of the L.S. Wood Charitable Trust Scholarship, the President’s Scholarship, and the Multi-Ethnic Leadership Scholarship, and is involved in the Honors Program at Basalt High School.While he’s a solid 4.0 student, he loves sports and was a guard and defensive tackle for the Basalt Rams football team. He plans to attend Azusa Pacific University, located in northeast Los Angeles, and will declare his major after he’s tested the waters a bit.His key to success: “Don’t take drugs, and eat your vegetables. Value the time you have.” Camas said he believes that “it’s important to take life seriously, but don’t take it seriously.” “Place the importance in your life in pure joy,” he said.Valedictorian Brianna Janckila, 17, is the daughter of Ken and Deanna Janckila of Carbondale. She is also the second oldest of 11 children.She is active in the Interact Club, sponsored by the Snowmass Rotary, and started an ink cartridge recycling program at her school. She also runs the school-wide paper recycling program. She is a member of Key Club, and received the Presidential Academic Award, and awards in physics, statistics and accounting.”If you really try, you can get perfect grades,” said Janckila, admitting that she didn’t set out to earn a 4.0. It just worked out that way. “Just strive to be your best … and be proud of yourself. “Also, don’t wish the time away. It goes by fast enough,” she said.Janckila plans to attend St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., and possibly major in communications or teaching. Leaving BHS is bittersweet, she said.”High school is so comfortable,” she said. “No bills or anything like that.”Then again, she said, it will be fun to get out into the world and be what she wants to be. Valedictorian Thomas Caudill Githens is the son of Julie and Greg Hertzberg of Basalt and Jim and Valerie Githens of Carbondale.This Pepperdine University-bound outdoor enthusiast has been co-captain of Basalt’s varsity soccer team and is a four-year letterman, selected as an All State player in the sport. He also lettered this year in football.He will spend his summer as a raft guide for Whitewater Rafting. “I love the outdoors, I love the mountains,” said Githens, who also kayaks and snowboards. He is the recipient of the L.S. Wood Memorial Scholarship for 2002. He earned the Kiwanis OWL award in 2001 and ’02, was Basalt’s top Biology II student in 2001 and top English III student in 2001 and ’02. He is a member of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) club, and earned med-prep awards at the State HOSA Conference in March. He also received the Presidential Award in Academics.”I think (earning good grades) has a lot to do with dedication, before, after and in school,” said Githens.”Staying motivated and focused and having a positive attitude about everything” helped him maintain a 4.0 grade point average, he said. “You have one shot at high school, you need to make sure you do it right.”Githens plans to major in sports medicine, then, “most likely,” he will apply to medical school. Salutatorian Cassie Newman is the daughter of George and Elizabeth Newman of Basalt.She is an aspiring actress and has performed in numerous school productions. She also organized the valley-wide Student Film Festival, an annual event featuring student-produced videos.She is a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Interact Club. Newman plans to attend New York University and major in musical theater.”Challenge yourself,” said Newman. “It’s hard going at first, but it pays off in the long run, and makes life more fulfilling.Roaring Fork High SchoolValedictorian Caroline Gaillard Cretti offers simple advice on how to succeed: “Always be passionate about what you do.”Most students have a hard time keeping up with Cretti. The daughter of Bonnie and Clark Cretti of Redstone, she is constantly on the go.”I’m very busy,” said Cretti of her schedule.Cretti’s list of accomplishments in sports alone is too long to list here. At the state 3A track meet on May 17, she broke her own state record for the 3200-meter run by more than 26 seconds and broke the state record in the 1600-meter run on May 18. Cretti also played basketball and ran cross-country.In addition to her high school running career, she was Head Girl on Student Council, a member of the National Honor Society and Student Empowerment, and has won the OWL Award the past three years. She also was invited to participate in the Aspen Institute’s Great Books forum.Cretti is a recipient of the L.S. Wood Scholarship. She will attend Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. She hasn’t chosen her major yet. Jenna Aleece Nicholson, the daughter of Dr. Brad and Pat Nicholson, of Carbondale, will attend Colorado State University in the fall to major in biology.”I’m looking to go pre-med,” said Nicholson, whose 3.919 GPA earned her the honor of salutatorian for the class of 2002.Nicholson is a member of the National Honor Society, earned the OWL Award three consecutive years, and received the Presidential Award. She also played varsity basketball and volleyball, and works as a lifeguard at the John Fleet Pool in the summer.Nicholson said support and motivation from her parents are big reasons she has been so successful. Juggling sports and school isn’t always easy, she said.”Some days, there is so much to do and not enough time, then there’s sports on top of it all,” she said.A balanced schedule, though not always possible, helps considerably when trying to stay focused. As much as she loves athletics, she plans to participate only in intramural sports in college, which will allow her to be active while concentrating on academics.Believing in one’s self is also vital, said Nicholson. “To have confidence in yourself, that’s the biggest key to success.” Alpine ChristianAcademy, BasaltAmy Jolyn Heuer, the daughter of Thomas and Gail Heuer of Carbondale, is one of three valedictorians at Alpine Christian Academy in Basalt. She is one of 10 students in the school’s first graduating class.Heuer was vice president of the school’s Honor Society, plays keyboard and sings in Praise and Worship and at the Basalt Bible Church, and ran on the Basalt High School track team and her school’s cross-country team.As a scholar athlete, she was awarded the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Academic All-State Team award. She also earned the national Distinguished Student Award from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).”I just kind of take each day as it comes,” said Heuer. She credits her success to help from her friends and maintaining good relations with her teachers.Through the school’s mission trips, she volunteered in a crack baby orphanage in Peoria, Ill., and worked as an intern with the Wycliffe Bible Translators in Oaxaca, Mexico. She also worked with a local group to start a hospital for the Tarahumara Indians in Samachique, Mexico.Those experiences, she said, have given her a clearer perspective on life and a better understanding of what is important to her.”Continue to be yourself and don’t compromise your morals,” she said. “Be the person God has designed you to be and you’ll be happiest.”Megan Olivia Lund, the daughter of Ron and Kate Lund of Basalt, has participated in track and cross country at the state level. She will attend the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs on a running scholarship. Lund is also involved in the Young Life youth group and is a junior leader in Wild Life, the middle school branch of Young Life. She was also the school’s National Honor Society president, participates in Praise and Worship, and received the ACSI’s National Distinguished Christian Athlete award. “Keep disciplining yourself and striving to be your best and you will be rewarded in the long run,” she said. “Don’t compromise what you believe for what’s popular.”Discipline, particularly when she wanted to “hang out” with friends, has helped her succeed. “This school really nurtured that success,” said Lund. “It’s helped me set high standards in all areas of my life.”Her statement for success in life: “Be joyful in every situation you’re put in. There is no point in being negative when you can be positive.”Lund hasn’t chosen a major as of yet, but is interested in sports-related nutrition. Lora Leslie Meredith is the daughter of Paige and Margie Meredith of Redstone. While she loves school, music is primary in her life. She has performed for 10 years in Symphony in the Valley, from which she received the Jon Madsen Memorial Scholarship, plays for Praise and Worship and for the Church at Redstone, and accompanied the school choir.Meredith was a member of the school’s Honor Society and was selected in past years as the top English student. She served a two-week internship this spring at the Post Independent, and wrote a front-page story. She earned the Provost Freshman Scholarship, and will attend the University of Northern College in Greeley and major in English and minor in music education.Until she entered ACA in sixth grade, Meredith was homeschooled. Going to school was scary at first, she recalled, but once she settled in she made it her goal to be among the best in her class.”Most important,” she said, “is to have respect for your teachers, for the way they think and the way they teach. If you respect them, they’ll respect you. That relationship helps you succeed.”Glenwood SpringsHigh SchoolAudra Ann Dobbs is the daughter of Ann Martin of Glenwood Springs. Her interest in helping others led her to become a Teen Pal for Garfield County YouthZone and to volunteer in the Special Needs Room at GSHS. She also makes weekly visits to a gentleman resident at Glen Valley Care Center.Dobbs is a Kiwanis OWL Award recipient, was active in Key Club, and was a Peer Helper her freshman year and a Peer Counselor the past three years.She was first runner-up in the 2001 Miss Strawberry Days scholarship contest, was fourth runner-up in the 2000 Miss Teen of Colorado scholarship program, and was a varsity cheerleader for three years.”Cheerleading is a high-commitment sport,” said Dobbs. Cheerleaders train year-round and attend most at-home and away games.She also maintained a 4.0 GPA while working year-round at Bullock’s.It’s that commitment that put Dobbs at the top of her class.Dobbs knows what is important to her, and can separate the superficial from the profound. “I know that things that seem so important now, like parties and being popular, won’t be important later on. The coolest things are not always best,” she said.Putting aside the fun but frivolous in high school takes sacrifice, she said, but the resulting success is worth it.Dobbs gives credit for her accomplishments mainly to her mother. Without her, she said, “I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.Her mom didn’t expect her to get straight A’s. Rather, she encouraged her to try, and constantly reminded her of a familiar quote, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”Dobbs will attend Mesa State and major in pre-med.Charles Reinisch Salmen, better known as “Chas,” is the son of Nancy Reinisch and Paul Salmen of Glenwood Springs. “My family really inspires me. My parents, my younger brother (Marco),” said Salmen. He follows his mom’s advice to “Be honest, be safe, and drink lots of water.” He also credits his teachers and coaches and their encouragement and support.Salmen places importance in serving and being involved in one’s community. His favorite quote, by former U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm, is, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”Salmen served his school and his peers as a student council member through his junior year, and on the school’s Climate Committee and Governance Council. He was elected Outstanding Freshman, Sophomore and Junior, was a National Merit Finalist his senior year, was a National Honor Society member, and sings in the school choir.He was a member of the state champion Mock Trial team, although he sacrificed the team’s trip to national competition in order to compete in the state track meet. A top athlete, he ran track and cross country, and was a member of the Demons basketball team. Among his long list of awards, Salmen is a 2002 recipient of the L.S. Wood Memorial Scholarship.Salmen was recruited by Duke University and, in addition to continuing his running career, plans to study pre-med, and possibly English, physics, and philosophy.”The hard work, it was all worth it,” said Dustin Alexander “Dusti” Lanci, the son of Chuck and Chris Lanci of Glenwood Springs.”My parents always taught me to do my best,” said Lanci, “and I decided that was what I wanted to do.”Lanci, who also received the L.S. Wood scholarship, follows in the success of his brother, Nathan, who was a GSHS valedictorian for the class of 1999.Dusti Lanci was active in Key Club, El Pomar Youth in Community Service and the National Honor Society, and attended the American Legion’s Boy’s State government leadership camp in 2001. He was a member of the jazz, concert, marching, pep and wind ensemble bands and was a four-year letterman in band.An athlete, he also lettered in football, basketball and baseball. Among his many awards and recognitions, he was named to the Academic All-State First Team in baseball in 2001 and the All-Conference team in 2002, was an Alpine Bank Student of the Month in 2002, and earned the Colorado School of Mines Medal of Honor in 2001. Lanci will attend Mines this fall and major in engineering.A co-founder of the school’s Outdoor Club, Lanci loves doing just about anything outside. He kayaks and plans to spend future summers in the area as a raft guide.His advice to others who want to succeed, “Do your best and expand upon yourself from there.”Rifle High SchoolRifle High School valedictorian Amy Daley is the daughter of Frank and Sheila Daley of Silt. Having grown up on the family ranch, she is accustomed to hard work. “I don’t think I ever thought of doing anything less,” she said of her perfect grades.Daley, whose sister Erin was valedictorian for the RHS class of 2000, was this year’s captain of the girls’ volleyball, soccer and basketball teams, and received the Golden Bear Award for earning a varsity letter for four consecutive years.She was also on the Academic All-State First Team in all three sports. She was president of the school’s National Honor Society, was a LINK leader, and was in Future Business Leaders of America for three years, qualifying this year for national competition. Daley also received the Principal’s Leadership and the Advanced Placement Biology Student of the Year awards, and was an honoree for the 2002 Garfield County Humanitarian Awards.She is the recipient of the L.S. Wood Memorial Scholarship, and received scholarships from the Roaring Fork Internet Users Group (RoFIntUG), Williams Energy, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, and the Little Britches Rodeo Association. “I used to be in the Little Britches Rodeo,” she added.She will attend Stanford University and tentatively plans to major in management sciences and engineering. Her speech to her classmates, she said on Friday, was to be about choosing a career they can be passionate about, rather than opting for earning a lot of money. That middle part of life, the years spent working, is so important, said Daley.”It’s sad that some people throw it away and don’t enjoy it,” she said.While writing her speech, she thought a lot about her parents and friends, and about classmate Grant Walker, who died this winter in a snowmobile accident. “It really made me think,” she said. “We have to make the most of the time we have.”-Salutatorian Jessica Ann Brownell is the daughter of Serene Sales of Rifle. An actress, she was a member of the RHS Drama Club, and belongs to the International Thespian Society. She played trumpet in band, and earned several honor band recognition awards and All-State Band honors the past two years.She played with Symphony in the Valley, and at the orchestra’s spring concert she played a duet solo with her instructor, Kelly Thompson.Brownell can also be heard playing “Taps” at funerals for U.S. war veterans and at Veterans Day events in the Rifle area.Because she took Advanced Placement classes, she graduated with a slightly higher than 4.0 GPA. “It comes naturally to me,” Brownell said of her success. “I always made time for school.” Brownell is a recipient of the L.S. Wood scholarship. She plans to attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and earn a double major in chemistry and music. She hopes to become a research chemist. Wherever she ends up, she also hopes to play for the local symphony, perhaps on a professional level.Leaving high school won’t be easy, she said. “This class has gone through some rough times, but we managed to come out on top. It just shows that if you don’t give up, and you try your hardest and do what it takes, you’ll get there.”Seniors at Basalt, Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs and Rifle high schools all turned their tassels on Saturday.Yampah Mountain High School’s commencement exercises were held Friday. Yampah doesn’t select a valedictorian or salutatorian.Pomp and circumstance at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 1, in front of the Barn. CRMS doesn’t select a valedictorian either. Rather, students select two students and two staff members to address the student body.Alpine Christian Academy will hold commencement exercises at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at La Certe Ranch, on Red Hill near Carbondale. The three valedictorians and principal William Collins will speak.


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