Largest class ever graduates from Glenwood Springs High School | PostIndependent.com

Largest class ever graduates from Glenwood Springs High School

Kelley Cox / Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Academic skills, as important as they are, can only take you so far after high school, former Glenwood Springs High School principal Mike Wells advised 182 GSHS graduates Saturday morning on Stubler Memorial Field.

"No question, these students are academically ready for the next step," Wells said on a bright, sunny, warm morning before the largest class ever to graduate from GSHS. The Class of 2013 was 50 more than last year.

Wells was principal and assistant principal at GSHS from 1980 until his retirement in 2005, but has continued to teach on occasion and had worked with several of this year's graduates as a pre-collegiate mentor.

Beyond academic knowledge, Wells offered the "top five things they don't test you for in high school."

First is a good sense of humor, he said.

"If you recognize the humor in things, you will do well in life," Wells said.

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Second, "work and fun are not mutually exclusive," he said. "If you find a job where you're doing something fun, you'll not work a day of your life."

Third, "it's OK to fail. That's how we make progress. But if you stumble, get right back up and try again."

Fourth, as Wells' father always told him, "if you want something, you gotta work for it," he said. "You need to be responsible for your actions, and take the initiative to get the things you need in your life."

And fifth, life is about building relationships that matter, Wells said.

"Relationships develop a sense of perspective in our life," he said. "Respect other people for what they do and who they are."

As a side note to building and maintaining relationships, "don't be fooled into thinking all forms of communication are the same," Wells added. "On her birthday, your mother wants a phone call, not a text."

Laughter was also part of a suitcase full of things the five GSHS co-valedictorians suggested that their classmates pack with them to take away to college or wherever they plan to go after high school.

"I always approach each challenge with a giggle in my throat," said Lily Thorsen, who joined fellow valedictorians Diana Banks, Kayla Kline, Cora Lubchenco and Pablo Gorra at the podium for a send-off to their classmates.

"Laughter is the cheapest medicine, and nothing can fix just about any problem like laughter," Thorsen said.

Banks suggested an electronic coin sorter, recalling her own childhood fascination with a machine that could tell the difference between a quarter and a nickel and count a pile of coins far faster than any human could.

"Value not only what's astounding, but just being astounded," she said. "And let us watch the improbable become the possible right in front of our eyes."

Kline offered up a cheap, one-dollar coffee mug to add to the suitcase.

"The coffee is what's important," she said. "Bad coffee is bad coffee, no matter how fancy your mug is."

Lubchenco and Gorra suggested a pair of childhood amusements to complete the farewell package, a metal Slinky toy and a box of crayons.

An old metal slinky can help bond the generations through nostalgia. Plus, it's "a fun, wonderful toy," Lubchenco said, reciting part of the old Slinky commercial jingle.

"It is something that can connect us to the people who matter the most in our lives, and it connects us through curiosity and wonder," she said.

Crayons, Gorra said, were always more than just something to pass the time in the back seat of the car or at the restaurant while waiting for the food to come.

"Crayons can be used to create something with meaning … and to develop your talents," said Gorra, a recipient of the prestigious Colorado Boettcher Foundation Scholarship.

"We're all born with a gift, don't waste it," Gorra said.

A full 85 percent of this year's GSHS graduating class is planning to continue on to a college, university or trade school. Another 3 percent intend to join the military.

GSHS was one of three Roaring Fork School District Re-1 high schools to hold graduations ceremonies on Saturday. At Basalt High School, 73 seniors received their diplomas, while 65 graduated from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

"Stay true to who you are and to yourself," said Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko, who addressed graduates at all four district high schools, including the alternative Bridges High School on Friday.

"Learn from your mistakes, move on and don't let them define you," Sirko said. "And remember, you can't Google to find whatever it is your passionate about."

jstroud@postindependent.com