Eagle Valley’s largest class ever goes out on a high note

Valedictorian Grace Dusenberry challenges her fellow seniors to create their own legacy

Eagle Valley High School graduated 249 seniors — its largest class in school history — at Saturday’s commencement ceremony at Hot Stuff Stadium.
Barry Eckhaus/For the Vail Daily

GYPSUM — Eagle Valley High School’s graduating Class of 2022 picked a succulent for its honorary flower — an apt representation of a group of seniors who weathered plenty in four years.

Yen Hanson, in a charge to the senior class alongside principal Gregory Doan, said “it wasn’t always pretty” over the past four years as he and his classmates dealt with COVID-19 restrictions that altered high school life as usual. But coming through it together made each member of the class — the largest in school history at 249 — stronger and more prepared for anything life throws their way.

That resolve was a constant theme as a large crowd packed Hot Stuff Stadium on a sun-drenched Saturday morning to send off the Devils seniors with a flourish.

Valedictorian Grace Dusenberry challenged her fellow seniors to carve out their own legacy like other generations before them. She specifically singled out the Greatest Generation, those who survived the Great Depression and who were “defined by their service and self sacrifice” during World War II, as well as the hippies of the 1960s who “exhorted people to come together, smile on your brother, and love one another.”

“What will our legacy be? What will we be known for?” Dusenberry asked. “What if we were the ones to repair the oceans and restore the skies? Could we be the ones to mend relations between the West and Russia or Iran? What if we were the ones who finally solved homelessness? Could we be the generation who cares more about our neighbors than we did ourselves?

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Salutatorian Tatum Coe, in an address that included plenty of laughs, reminded her fellow seniors that succeeding in life is all about having the right perspective.

Balloons, flowers and gifts are ready and waiting to be gifted to the 2022 Eagle Valley High School graduates.
Barry Eckhaus/For the Vail Daily

“If we focus on the negative aspect of any situation, the stories we tell our grandchildren will be tarnished by sour memories, by hurt and heartache,” she said. “If we give power to the things that seek to knock us down, we will become lost. But if we focus on the positive aspect of any situation, we will be those grandparents who speak about the really good old days.”

Coe specifically thanked her best friend, her mother, who she said watched the Disney movie “Tangled” with her on too many Friday nights to count. And she also told a hilarious story about how not getting asked to prom might have been a reason to mope, but instead presented her with the opportunity to dress up as Spider-Man and go to the big dance with a Tom Holland cardboard cutout.

“There will always be a sliver of joy,” Coe said. “We just always need to look for it. Things can only hurt us when we give them the power to do so.”

Ron Beard, who Doan called the “teacher of everything Eagle Valley High School has to offer,” was selected by the seniors to deliver the faculty address. Beard, who said he’s graduating as well, as he is leaving the school to be closer to family, reflected on how far the graduating seniors had come since first showing up in his classroom as wide-eyed freshmen.

“When you were ninth graders, one of my common themes was dreams,” he said. “Dream so big it scares you. Chase your dreams, because your dreams will not chase you. Dare to dream of a brighter world, and never stop pursing your dreams.”

Beard said, with his departure, he’d been asked to share a job posting and then proceeded to list the benefits of the position.

Among the job perks: “You get to hang out with really awesome kids every day. Some might be scared, some might be cocky, some have backpacks bigger than they are, some think they have it all figured out, and there are some who think Cheez-Its are a breakfast cereal. You have the privilege of looking into the eyes of the future. They grow up and mature, and you get to be really proud as you see them become really awesome kids.”

Also awesome: You get summers off, you get to go to sporting events for free, and “you get to dress up on Halloween, and wear pajamas on dress-up day, and you get paid for it.”

Beard closed by saying that “there’s nothing in the world that beats helping someone achieve their dreams” and that his time at Eagle Valley was a dream job.

“Be the difference,” he said. Do the big rocks first, know your value, and find the value in others.”

Jessah Celaya Lozano gave the honorary senior address, delivering her remarks in her native Spanish in a ceremony that offered Spanish translation to those in attendance.

Lozano told the story of her journey from Sonora, Mexico, to the high school in Gypsum after her father passed away and her mother lost her job.

“Fate put us in this beautiful valley, she said, and she thanked all the members of Eagle Valley High School “for accepting me as part of their family, regardless of where I am from or what language I speak.”

She then offered some words of advice to fellow graduates with similar trajectories, stating: “Fellow immigrants, we have the joy of being able to proudly say that we did it and that no matter how hard the road was, we were able to get here. Do not be afraid to dare to do things.”

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