Eagle Valley’s Class of 2016 takes its short commencement walk into a long life | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley’s Class of 2016 takes its short commencement walk into a long life

No longer seniors, the Eagle Valley High School Class of 2016 toss their caps in the air to end one journey and begin at Saturday's commencement in Gypsum.
Chris Dillmann | Special to the Daily |

GYPSUM — Eagle Valley High School’s Class of 2016 is a spirited group, and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is their emotional anthem … because they’re a great class and it’s a great song, that’s why.

So, Principal Greg Doan invited Mr. Diamond to perform that song at Saturday’s Eagle Valley commencement. And why not?

“We’ve had Bill Gates, NFL Hall of Famer Mike Haynes, Gov. John Hickenlooper, so why not Neil Diamond?” Doan told the graduates and their throngs of adoring fans.

Mr. Diamond, alas, was otherwise engaged. In his place, Eagle Valley cranked up a recording and belted out the lyrics along with unbridled enthusiasm.

“So good! So good! So good!”

And it wasn’t just good. It was great.

Vaulting to new heights

Saturday’s celebration even reached the state track meet. Senior Cody Osteen was competing Saturday morning in the pole vault in Jefferson County. Biophysics being what they are, she could not be in two places at once.

Thanks to wonders of modern technology, she received her diploma virtually as Doan held up his smart phone and walked her virtually across the stage, shook hands and swapped hugs and high-fives on her behalf with school board members and Superintendent Jason Glass.

Osteen jumped 10-feet 8-inches, a personal best, good enough for 7th place and the podium.

When she climbed that podium, she was resplendent in her red Eagle Valley cap and gown.

She said she was thrilled to qualify for the state meet about halfway the season, but not so much when she found out the state meet was also commencement day.

She wasn’t sure what she’d do. But like most things in her life, she wasn’t unsure for long.

“It’s not a chance many people get, to podium in the state meet. I wanted to see what I could do,” Osteen said. “Thanks Mr. Doan and T. Payne and all the coaches to make it work to make me part of graduation.”

‘Handshakes, high-fives and hugs’

Eagle Valley’s commencement is always Saturday morning, always outside on John Ramunno Field and the sun always shines.

Moms are allowed to cry, almost required to. Dads cry, too, but try to explain it away by saying they had sunscreen in their eyes.

God loves everyone all the time, but on graduation day he loves young people in square hats most of all.

Valedictorian Jay Neal pointed out that he and his fellow graduates are “profoundly lucky and blessed to receive this education.”

The Class of 2016 decided there is more to an education than prepping for a standardized test.

“A lot of what we learned in high school is through experiences,” Neal said.

That’s why, when their class got their cumulative ACT scores last fall and had to decide whether to concentrate on that or something that actually matters, they chose to focus on relationships.

“We specialize in handshakes, high-fives and hugs,” Neal said. “We will carry the lessons of selflessness and community to the next level. Keep moving forward. Keep moving up.”

Salutatorian Hailey Pope is a writer and storyteller. Great stories tend to have common threads, she said.

“Everyone goes through good and bad experiences. How you come through it is what makes us original,” Pope said. “Take that kindness and uniqueness into the rest of your life.”

In his faculty address, Luke Cross admonished the graduates to always remember three things:

1. Be thankful.

2. Remember whom you represent.

3. Do not dwell on your mistakes.

Like most parents, Cross’ dad went to great lengths to support his son, like the times his dad drove 1,000 miles, twice, to watch him wrestle in North Dakota.

“Remember that no matter the size of your accomplishment, you represent so very much,” Cross said. “Use your failures as motivation. When adversity punches you in the face, get up and regroup.”

Their class motto is Dr. Seuss’s, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Watching them handshake, high-five, and hug across the commencement stage Saturday, you get the feeling that they spotted those moments as they happened, as they became memories.

And with that, Eagle Valley’s graduates turned their tassels from left to right and strode confidently into the rest of their lives.

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