Eagle Valley’s 2005 grads bid adieu | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley’s 2005 grads bid adieu

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailySeniors listen while principal Mark Strakbein (not shown) prepares to present the diplomas. Eagle Valley High School graduated 121 students for the class of 2005.

GYPSUM – High school graduations are becoming a regular event for Barbara McConnell, but there was nothing ordinary about the one she went to Sunday.McConnell, who has 18 grandchildren, got to spend the first half of Eagle Valley High’s graduation ceremony right in the mix of things. She played the piano while her granddaughter Jennifer McConnell and the rest of the school’s select choir sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and a rendition of pop star Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway”.”Jennifer wanted me to play for them,” McConnell said. “I was so complimented by that.”

Friends and families of the Class of 2005 got plenty of kudos during the sunny, hourlong ceremony in the school’s Hot Stuff Stadium. Student speakers, like senior Bobbi Ray, thanked the adults in their lives for their guidance and leadership. School has been a learning experience, she said. “Some of us have learned that there are things that aren’t worth getting in trouble for and there are some of us who haven’t learned that yet,” Ray said, prompting a chuckle from the crowd. No matter where each student goes next, their childhoods spent in Eagle County will remain a part of them, Ray said.

Alex Amsden, Kristin Fawcett and Heather Mann pointed out the parallels between the graduating senior class and the community in which they live. While the students continue to grow and evolve as the get older, Eagle County also is growing and changing as on-going development occurs. The young women urged their classmates to remember what they had learned while growing up in a small community like Eagle County, even making a comparison to the school principal, for emphasis.”Like Mr. Strakbein, good things come in small packages,” one quipped. Up until now, many of the seniors have relied on parents, teachers and other adults to help them make decisions, said Jessica Medsker, the class valedictorian. Life after high school will be different, she said.

“Where we go and who we become is completely our responsibility,” she said. Medsker said her classmates were “dreamers” who had accomplished academic, athletic and artistic success. Dreams will continue to be a part of their lives but hard work is what will make those hopes come true, she said. And persevering through life’s hurdles is important, Strakbein told the class. He used senior and track star Brad Gamble’s experience at Saturday’s state track meet as an example. Gamble had hoped to break state records in both of the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdle races. But in the first event, the 110-meter, Gamble tripped and came in fourth. Rather than giving up the dream altogether, Gamble went on to take first in the 300-meter hurdles.

“I don’t know if you can have a better lesson in life than that,” Strakbein said. Watching from the sidelines during Sunday’s graduation, Martin Medina had his own piece of advice for his nephew, Rodney Martinez, another graduating senior. Medina grew up in Eagle County and traveled from Las Vegas to see his nephew graduate. “Just stay focused on what’s good and continue to dream big,” Martinez said. “Just reach for the stars.”

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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