Boldly into whatever’s next |

Boldly into whatever’s next

Ryan Schmidt | Special to the DailyBlake Koch celebrates with valedictorian Zoe Thrasher after receiving his diploma at Eagle Valley High School's 2012 commencement ceremony Saturday in Gypsum.

GYPSUM – They laughed, they cried, spirits soared, life chapters closed and others opened – Saturday’s Eagle Valley High School commencement was life in an hour.

Principal Greg Doan explained that the flowers were grown in the school’s greenhouse and are a “collaboration between many people who work and strive for student


The senior musicians sang John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “In My Life.” It talks about the dance of life, the people we’ve loved as they waltz in and out of our lives and how we’ll always love them.

The Select Choir belted out “So Far to Go” – “It’s so clear that every year we get stronger.”

Spectacular speechifying

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And people gave the coolest speeches.

Zoe Thrasher, valedictorian and speech and debate champion, spun the lectern around to face her classmates, raised her arms in her graduation gown and cracked up the crowd by asking, “Does this make me look fat?”

She thanked everyone – “distinguished guests, undistinguished guests … and you know who you are …” and then went back to their robes for more comic material.

“If you’re in your robe at 9 in the morning, it means you’ve given up. But not us.”

She said she was asked by hundreds of people for a shout-out during her speech to friends and family, and she delivered. “Oh, Harry, Ron and Hermione, I could never have made it without you!”

She pointed out that at 18 years old, they’ve only lived 20 percent of their lives. The sign over the door says, “Eagle Valley High School: A direction, not a destination.”

That’s the whole point, she said.

“We all remember the story from our freshman year about the guy who tried for 20 years to get back home. What kind of nerd brings up ‘The Odyssey’ in a graduation speech? This nerd!” she said, smacking the podium. “We are not the first to graduate, nor will we be the last, unless the Mayans were right and the world ends.”

Salutatorian Samantha Eckert encouraged the graduates to get out there and make a difference, to be the best them that they could be, to remember from whence they came – “As freshmen, all we could imagine was how to keep from being stuffed into lockers” – and offered a little advice, “Whatever you do, don’t call Dr. Vogel ‘Mr. Vogel.'”

The graduates chose visual arts teacher Jason Rittmiller to give their faculty address.

“You could have chosen an intellectual like Dr. Vogel, or someone from the English department who teaches people how to do this, but you chose a guy who colors for a living and rides a skateboard to school,” Rittmiller said.

Then he offered a little life advice.

“You all need to learn how to dance. I went to prom, and you were awful. When you go to college, you’re going to have to avoid eye contact the next day if you dance like that,” he said.

“Update your Facebook page. The people you’re asking for a job will check that. You need to delete some of that stuff. And check your oil when you fill up with gas. You can’t afford a new car.”

He told them to start now doing what they love before going to school to learn about it, and that no amount of money can replace that.

“We’re proud of you for this big achievement, but we’re more proud for what we’re about to do,” Ritmiller said.

Former Eagle Valley High School principal Mark Strakbein had been with the Class of 2012 for three years and took the stage one last time to give them their charge. He took the stage and launched into a story about inheriting the kinds of things that will change their lives and the lives of others.

“Be the caretakers of your inheritance and grow it,” he said. “Make it bigger and better.”

“We’re expecting big things from you,” he said.

Commencement crowds often grow quieter as the graduates’ names are read.

But Saturday’s Eagle Valley crowd grew more enthusiastic, raucous perhaps, as the role rolled on.

Finally, tassels were turned from left to right, but didn’t stay long. The hats went into the air in celebration. Parents stormed the field to hug their newly minted adult children as the PA system belted out, “Life is a highway, we’re gonna ride it all night long.”

And they will, as they must.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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