Eagle Valley graduation: ‘On My Way’
GYPSUM, Colorado – Katherine James and Jeri Sheldon have spent many long hours studying together this year, each not-so-secretly hoping she’d become Eagle Valley High School’s valedictorian.
“Over the years, school was really important to both of us and that made us closer friends,” James said. “It got to the point where I wanted her to be valedictorian as much as I wanted it myself.”
Both girls got their wish. They tied with 4.39 grade point averages, and each got to stand at the podium Saturday morning as valedictorian.
A pair of helicopter fly-bys kicked off the school’s 51st graduation ceremony at Gypsum’s Hot Stuff Stadium. The 173 graduates got a clear, sunny day for the event. Members of the select choir sang “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, and senior musicians performed Phil Collins’ “On My Way.”
For her valedictorian speech, James read a quote she thought fit her free-spirited class.
“‘Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from bad decisions,’ and that’s why we are leaving high school a little wiser than we began,” she said.
Although students may have made some mistakes, they could always count on teachers and family to point them in the right direction, she said.
James is the second member of her family to be valedictorian at Eagle Valley – her brother, Will James, got the honor in 2006.
Katherine will be attending Middlebury College in Vermont. Before heading there in February, she hopes to do some traveling, including a trip to India to work with an organization that helps burned brides.
Sheldon will be heading to Tulane University in Louisiana, where she plans major in pre-med.
“Both my parents are vets, and I grew up around medicine,” she said.
During her speech, Sheldon talked about the human tendency to overly criticize oneself, noting people must learn to accept their imperfections.
“My fellow classmates and I have worked very hard to get where we are now and where we’re going to be next year,” she said. “If we realize we do not need to be perfect to be successful, productive individuals, it will afford us the opportunity to expand our horizons, find new challenges and become truly excellent.”
Salutatorian Prather Silverthorn made the audience laugh with a speech full of witty one-liners.
On living in Gypsum: “We’ve seen it transition from a small community with nothing to do to a larger community with nothing to do.”
On a teacher’s bad handwriting: “Is that a Q? Is that an S? Is that a Batman symbol?”
Silverthorn, who will be among nine students at Eagle Valley heading to the Colorado School of Mines, wrapped up his speech with some feel-good reflections.
“Bill Cosby once said that ‘Humans are the only creatures on Earth that allow their children to come back home.’ OK, I’m not telling you to go live with your parents when you turn 30 … I am telling you: You will always have the support of your family, so my advice to you is to dream big and know your family will always be behind you every step of the way.”
Principal Mark Strakbein delivered a senior address about the importance of self-direction, quoting from Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”
“Think about finding your direction in life, pursuing it with mastery and excellence and then doing something that’s bigger than yourself, something for your community and for your world,” Strakbein said.