Granting wishes, dancing with abandon EVHS Class of ’18 marches toward future |

Granting wishes, dancing with abandon EVHS Class of ’18 marches toward future

Eagle Valley High School Principal, Gregory Doan, dances with Sofia Aguilar, like nobody is watching, after recognizing her during commencement 2018 for helping raise $25,000 for Make a Wish for a student's sibling on Saturday, May 26, in Gypsum. The school raised more money in the time frame than any other school, despite size.
Chris Dillmann |

GYPSUM — Considering it involved more that 200 students along with their family and friends together with the entire school staff, Eagle Valley High School’s graduation Saturday morning, May 26, was an intimate affair.

It was full of insider jokes, celebration of singular class accomplishments and recollections of unique times shared by the Class of ’18.

Principal Greg Doan launched the graduation ceremony by thanking various dignitaries assembled for the celebration.

He capped his list by thanking all the community members who supported a bond issue election that funded a $30 million building program at the school, with a new wing rising right behind Hot Stuff Stadium where the ceremony was under way.

Doan also noted the new construction caused the parking problems everyone experienced that very morning.

That turned into a theme for the event.

Breaking glass

Valedictorian Brennecke Gale told the crowd up front that she planned to share a number of inside jokes with her classmates. She referred to one of Doan’s frequent quotes. “You can never jump high over a low bar, but the only time we have set the bar low is for limbo,” she declared.

Gale predicted her classmates will achieve great success — breaking boundaries and shattering glass ceilings.

“We learned that water bottles can break glass, too,” she said, to the laughter of her peers.

“EVHS taught us the most important thing to do is be ourselves,” Gale said. She concluded by quoting former First Lady Barbara Bush: “May your future be worthy of your dreams.”

Marking a milestone

Salutatorian Ashley Laidman crafted her remarks around the notion that she and her classmates were facing a milestone moment. She noted milestones are defined as actual markers to denote the mile measurements along a path. But while the marker is a constant, the journey is unique.

“Each person’s experience between the milestones is drastically different,” she said.

Harkening back to the year’s parking challenges brought about by the new school construction, Laidman noted that experience was a uniting factor for this year’s seniors. She noted creative parking became a theme for the class. “People were parked where you never thought you would see a car,” she said.

Laidman challenged her classmates to apply that kind of creativity to the world at large. Perhaps individuals cannot change the entire world, she noted, “but instead of trying to change the whole world, change one person’s world.”

Like-minded people

Jillian Byron was selected to give the honorary senior address.

She recalled how, as an eighth-grader, her mother told her when she got to high school she would find a corps of like-minded people who would become stalwart friends.

Byron said her mom’s prediction proved to be true, not just among her peers but also among the EVHS staff.

“They saw things in me I didn’t even know were present,” Byron said.

She said that just as her personal teacher-mentors helped her discover her best self, other staff members forged special relationships with her classmates.

“We all had that one person,” she said.

Ironic faculty choice

Sam Bartlett, an English teacher at EVHS, was selected by the graduates to deliver the faculty address. He called his selection an ironic choice for a celebratory day focused on the future because he was the person who guided them through some pretty grim literature including “The Hot Zone,” “The Kite Runner” and “1984.”

Bartlett noted he feels a kinship with all EVHS students. “I was raised in the same community as you. I walked the same hallways as you and I even had some of the same teachers as you,” he said.

From that shared experience, he offered his advice to the graduates.

“Try to always live in the moment. Pay attention to your senses,” Bartlett said. “Surround yourself with people who make you live the way you want to live.”

Bartlett shared that he was very affected by the death of rocker Tom Petty earlier this year. He noted that Petty’s songs provided the sound track for his life — from “Won’t Back Down” to “Freefallin’” to “Here Comes my Girl.”

His closing words were provided by Petty. “It’s time to move on. It’s time to get going,” he told the graduates.

Take a risk

Doan’s final advice to the Class of 2018 was to take risks — to dance as if no one was watching. He noted this year’s seniors have proven themselves capable of that challenge.

Doan noted that earlier this school year, the class set a goal of raising $5,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. EVHS students wanted to fulfill the desire of 7-year-old Scarlett Jones, the little sister of two classmates. Jones was diagnosed with leukemia and her wish was to take a Disney cruise.

At the time, that $5,000 seemed like a nearly unattainable goal. But it took one minute — one single minute — for EVHS students to collect that much money.

By the time they were finished with their benefit, the school had collected $25,000 — the largest amount ever collected by Colorado school for Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a result of the EVHS efforts, four children’s wishes were fulfilled.

Doan called Sofia Aguilar to the stage, noting that she led the Make-A-Wish fundraiser. “Sofia, are you ready to dance as if no one was watching?” Doan asked.

And then, in front of a whole bunch of people, the principal and graduates did just that.

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