Valedictorian at Rifle High School follows in sister’s footsteps |

Valedictorian at Rifle High School follows in sister’s footsteps

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

RIFLE, Colorado – The butterflies were still in Molly Simms’ stomach as the Rifle High School valedictorian stepped onto the podium to deliver her speech.Hundreds of parents, siblings and friends – not to mention 133 of her fellow classmates – gathered for one last celebration on the Bears Stadium field Sunday afternoon for the 2008 commencement ceremony.”I was really nervous right up to the end of my speech,” she admitted after tossing her cap into the air.

Simms followed in the footsteps of her big sister, Leslee Simms, who was the RHS valedictorian of the class of 2004. For Molly it made the day all that more memorable.”It feels good,” she said with a big smile. “As I said in my speech, people always thought I was the black sheep of the family.”Not any more.Being the last of four children to graduate from RHS, Simms couldn’t have scripted it any better if she’d been planning it all along.

“Not to be cliché, but this is just the beginning,” Simms said in her speech to the class. “We can choose what we keep with us and what we let go.”One thing that none of the students will ever be able to let go of is being a Rifle Bear. But despite that common thread, RHS principal Todd Ellis said that this class was especially unique.”In this class, so many of the students were so unique, and no one really fit the stereotype of your typical high school student,” Ellis said. “Each of the students were unique in their own way, and I think that is what’s special about this class.”

Another unique aspect to the ceremony was the recognition of two students, Megan Beauford and Philip Harju, who never lived to see graduation. Beauford died in a car accident in the summer of 2006, while Harju died about a year earlier after losing a battle with cancer. Nevertheless, they are still Rifle Bears, and they are still part of the class of 2008.”We wanted to let their families know that Megan and Philip were not forgotten,” Ellis said. “And we knew that both of them would have been here today if not for these unfortunate tragedies.”Once a Bear, always a Bear.Ellis wore sunglasses, as did many of the faculty and students, not only because of the bright sunlight, but because no matter how many times teachers go through this ceremony, the emotions never fade.”The sunglasses hide a lot of other things,” Ellis said. “But it’s always a good time of year.”

And for the 134 graduates, the class of 2008, it’s a day they will not ever forget.”I’m excited, nervous, anxious and everything else,” said Simms. “It’s also kind of sad.”Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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