Eagle Valley High School: Those Devils Did It
Whether it’s due to the staff of Eagle Valley High School or the community that surrounds it, the school’s culture has a way of genuinely honoring people without standing on ceremony ” even during a ceremony. All 137 graduates, their families and friends were invited to celebrate each other’s successes during graduation. The occasional small fry on the field or puppy yapping did nothing to distract from the business of the day: celebration for a scholastic milestone.
The class of 2008’s graduation officially began, as always, with a fly-over. Zooming in from the bluebird sky a large helicopter tilted hello to the crowd, so close the pilot’s face was visible. “Do it again, do it again,” could be heard from the bleachers, where families and friends sat in close quarters, craning to see their graduate. There was no do-over, as nothing was going to stop the momentum of the day.
“Here we have such a mixed culture,” said senior Teresa Peterson, who loves her school. An Edwards resident, she chose to make the daily trek to Gypsum to attend EVHS instead of Battle Mountain. “We have a way better choir.” Peterson is in that choir, which sang “Star Spangled Banner,” “Yesterday” and “Three Little Birds” during the ceremony.
“Everyone is so nice to each other,” agreed Allison Baptist an hour before graduating. She plans on starting her college career at CMC before transferring to Mesa State and studying art.
“A lot of these students have known each other since the first grade,” said Randy Rohweder.
“This class is very close,” agreed his wife, Marsha. The couple was waiting to see their daughter Ashley graduate, as was her sister Sarah Dominguez. “This was the first class that started out together, split up in middle school and then came back together,” Marsha said.
How do the two educators feel about Eagle Valley? “Yay public schools.”
Not all of the crowd members were local. Grandparents and other family came from out of state. Jamie Mann had her own fan club, 15 people strong, all sporting T-shirts that stated their solidarity. Next to a photo of the graduate 16-some-odd years ago were the words “Jamie We Love Ewe.”
“That’s her with her first lamb, Collin,” said her mom, Wendy Mann.
“Jamie’s a really fun, loving person,” said Jamie’s sister, Heather.
Gypsum resident Abel Haro is going to miss some of his classes. “History was my favorite,” he said, shrugging. “I like to study old things.”
“My favorite class was weights,” said his friend, Francisco Moran of Eagle.
“I’m happy to be done with high school,” admitted Samuel Gonzalez, who plans on working this summer and maybe attending college later.
Junior Cesar Castillo was in the crowd, watching some of his buddies get their diplomas. “I’m going to miss Scott House,” he said about the tall, red-headed graduate. “He’s crazy ” he makes everything louder.”
Principal Mark Strakbein was both master of ceremonies and proud father for the event. His son, Chad, never missed a day of school since kindergarten. Strakbein welcomed the crowd with a big round of thanks.
“Thanks to the parents and families, for what you’ve done to mold these kids,” he sad. “And to educators and counselors, from K through 12, who’ve taught them.”
He also thanked the community members, even those without a graduate, for providing a safe place for people to raise their kids. And finally he thanked the graduates themselves, for working hard and persevering. Apparently the class of ’08 managed to win almost every school spirit contest since they were freshmen.
There were not one but two valedictorians (Kelsey Elwood and Hilary Henry), as well as a salutatorian (Beckah Stough). Yep, all female. They each gave short speeches that touched on the beauty of living in a small town, and the possibilities of the great beyond.
“We’re not a community because we live near each other,” said Elwood. “We’re a community because we care about each other.”
“Everybody understands it’s a bad idea to got to the grocery store and hope to not be noticed,” she added, getting laughs of agreement from the crowd.
“We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” said Henry. “Well, you did good.” The audience agreed: they had done a fine job.
Stough spoke about the stars, so far away yet still sending light to earth. “Show the world the stars we are,” she told her classmates. “Light up the world. Let’s go, shine on.”
In keeping with the tone of the celebration, when Strakbein took to the stage to address the students, he turned his podium so he could look at them. He had heaps of practical advice.
“Weather the storm ” it’s coming,” he said. “Three months from now you’ll be broke and studying for a test, and nobody’s even going to feel sorry for you.” That real world will be nipping at their heels, and they’ll have to keep going. “Your lives will change forever and that is great.”
But the real business of the day was the awarding of the diplomas, everything else simply referencing that one fact. Each and every student got cheers and applause, from Jillian Elaine Happy Birthday Kohl to John Clifton JC Brown.
As soon as the ceremonial tassels were moved from the left to the right, the students threw their caps into the air as their families mobbed the field.
“I love the fact that here, I’ve gained friends,” said Jordyn Driver, who moved to the valley from Las Vegas. “I’m graduating with friends.”
Though these grads are on their way to the rest of their lives, some of them plan to return to Gypsum. Lance Wilson was a teacher’s assistant so many times he stopped getting credit for it but didn’t care.
“I loved helping the teachers,” he said. “I’m going back to New York for summer vacation and then to UNC for college. But I want to become a teacher and come back here to Eagle Valley.”
That just might be the best compliment a student can give a school. Shine on.
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