A perfect day to graduate
After weeks of intermittent rain, a brilliant blue sky greeted 202 Glenwood Springs High School seniors as they took the step into adulthood in what principal Paul Freeman called “the greatest day in our school calendar.”
Retiring teacher Bryan Whiting, the inaugural winner and namesake of his own award, was chosen to address the assembly at Stubler Memorial Field.
He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
“Graduating from high school is a monumental achievement, but it is just the start. What you do in high school doesn’t predict your future,” he said. “When someone says you have great potential, that’s nice, but there comes a time when it isn’t. You don’t want to come back for a reunion and hear you have great potential. That means you haven’t done anything yet.”
In between well-worn jokes made conveniently specific at the expense of his coworkers, Whiting cautioned against the assumption that adulthood holds the cure for bad decisions and encouraged students to take command of their own lives.
“If you stop practicing, if you stop preparing, the world is going to pass you by,” he said. “The world is full of people who find problems … Be the person who finds solutions for the world. Then you’ve done something that matters.”
Despite the recent shift to weighted GPAs, the class of 2015 boasted six valedictorians, who hit upon a literary theme to bring both unity and diversity to their message.
Using picture books, Carly Setterberg reminded her classmates to look back once in a while.
“By holding on to our childhood, we learn to not dwell on the frivolous issues in our lives,” she said.
Morley Perrin brought forth a chapter book.
“We have reached a point where we are the authors of our novels,” she told the class. “It doesn’t matter who reads your story. All that matters is when you read it, there’s nothing you would change.”
Next, Hannah Nilsson spoke to the unique, flexible nature of poetry.
“We can’t be afraid to express ourselves, even if it does not fit the traditional format,” she said. “Life is twisting and ever changing, so we must be willing to change with it.”
Sarah Fleming took the opportunity to stand up for the supposedly outdated newspaper.
“There’s a fundamental importance in exposing yourself to stories and opinions different from your own,” she asserted. “It is only from this vantage point that we are able to see the privileges we have enjoyed, and which causes we value and are willing to fight for.”
Embodying the travel guide she held, Lina Xochihua Castillo gave her speech in both English and Spanish.
“Embrace change. Don’t give up, and enjoy the ride,” she said.
Kira Willis closed the metaphor by acknowledging the changing meaning of the written word. For those who may have rolled their eyes at the selfie sticks that occasionally appeared among the graduates, she extolled the positive sides of social media.
“To many, this digital age is seen as a curse, but I choose to look at it as a blessing,” she said. “You have the opportunity to remain in touch with your roots, and who you are.”
Before the tassels were turned, Freeman took a moment to acknowledge his double role as an administrator and a parent.
“We remember sleepless nights, first words, and scraped knees,” he said. “How did we get so quickly from diapers to diplomas?”
To “Good Life,” by OneRepublic, the Glenwood Springs High School Class of 2015 turned the page.
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“I can’t even begin to tell you how important this is,” said YouthZone Executive Director Lori Mueller. “This is an integral part of helping kids get back on the right track.”