It’s great to be a Devil and not even a global pandemic can change that
Eagle Valley High School Class of 2021 is lauded for resiliency as seniors celebrate what they shared rather than mourn what they missed
GYPSUM — Graduation is the ceremony that’s supposed to celebrate the successful conclusion of four full years of high school experiences.
A global pandemic robbed a year and a half of that time from Eagle Valley High School’s Class of 2021.
“Most people in the crowd can probably look back and think about all the things they enjoyed the most and will always remember from their senior year. We didn’t get to choose what last moments we would enjoy the most because we didn’t get to experience a lot of them,” said senior Sophia Rinn, who delivered the honorary address at the school’s commencement ceremony held Saturday morning at Hot Stuff Stadium. “I think the class of 2021 can confidently say that because we never got to truly do this, we will appreciate the times we never knew were so important even more.”
Rinn could, and did, share memories from her fondest high school times. But the specter of COVID-19 shadowed many of those recollections. That’s part of the legacy for the Class of 2021, and faced with that reality, Rinn said the only option was to embrace it.
“As much as I hate to say it, thank you COVID for changing our lives and forcing us to face adversity,” she said. “Thank you for taking so much away that you forced us to realize how much we already have.”
As he launched the graduation ceremony Saturday, Eagle Valley High School Principal Greg Doan spoke about how amazing it felt to gather as a community after more than a year of pandemic-imposed isolation. He noted that with more that 2,000 people present, it was the largest event held in Eagle County for more than a year and a half.
“You can fact check me on that later, but for right now we will just say it is true,” Doan said.
The members of the Class of 2021 were praised for how they completed their senior year during the days of COVID-19 and celebrated for their humor, personalities, integrity, empathy and resilience.
“I have watched you work like mad to make this year the best senior year that you could,” said science teacher Devin Dupree, who was selected by the seniors to deliver the faculty address. “You showed up for practices, competitions and performances and dealt with many setbacks in the midst of this pandemic and showed your best self. And finally, you are here, today, May 29, 2021, at Hot Stuff Stadium, to experience your graduation with your family and friends.”
Valedictorian Sebastian Witt also took up a resiliency theme, recalling how he was a scrawny 4-foot, 11-inch kid when he first stepped on campus.
“But through my experience, I actually learned that being the underdog is a golden opportunity,” Witt said. “It is the chance to learn the game from those above you and then play it even better when your time comes because to silence the doubt and stun the crowd is a glory like no other. In all of your past firsts — in school, sports or relationships — you were the underdog, and you will find the same in all of your future firsts. I challenge you to continue to make each rise to the top a legendary story.”
Find your voice
The final student speaker Saturday morning shared a fiery address with her classmates and the larger community. Senior Jimena Granados announced she would be speaking for students who aren’t always heard.
“Perhaps I’ll start by saying that I have never seen anyone like me up on this stage, giving a speech as a result of academic achievement in any of the graduation ceremonies I have witnessed,” Granados said. “But when I look out into the audience, I see my culture, my language, my identity in so many of my classmates and their families. So where is our voice? Where is my voice?”
During her time on stage, Granados passionately used her voice. She alternated between English and Spanish and spoke about the liberation that happens by telling your truth and sharing your story.
“As I finish speaking, my voice soaring through the air due to the source of energy I have illuminating my being, I no longer change the shape of my words as they exit my mouth. I do not need a white man to tell me it is OK to speak. I do not need to prove anything to anyone but myself,” she said. “If you remember only one thing I say, let it be this — don’t let your voice be taken from you.”
Shortly thereafter, after diplomas had been distributed to the first Eagle Valley class in history that numbered more than 200 seniors, the voices of the new graduates and the members of the audience assembled to celebrate their commencement, joined together for a final cheer as mortarboards flew into the air.
For members of the Class of 2021, who didn’t know if they would have that moment, it was an especially sweet sight. And yes, it was great to be a Devil.