Pomp, circumstance and the Eagle Valley Devils
GYPSUM, Colorado ” The first collective cheer of the day ” but certainly not the last ” was in the gym. Moments before pushing out the door and into Hot Stuff Stadium, the Eagle Valley High School seniors hooted, hollered and clapped for themselves and each other. And after three U.S. military helicoptors buzzed the crowd (twice) the 135 students marched onto the field to become Colorado’s first graduating class of 2009.
Eagle Valley’s Mother’s Day graduation ceremony and indeed the end of the school year came early due to an extensive construction project that will be finished by the beginning of the next school year. Long gone at that point, the Devils alum won’t be enjoying the new facilities. But they were unfazed by such details, something Mark Strakbein remarked on in his Principal’s Address. He told a fable about a horse in a dire situation who was able to beat the odds and live to work another day.
“I think of the lunch hours you had eating in a cafeteria that was a hallway,” Strakbein said. “You covered more content in a shorter period of time. You had longer days. You shook it off and stepped up: You were a tremendous example.”
The fable was a fitting way to address these particular students.
“To no other class have I told more stories to,” Strakbein said. “And from no other class have I gotten more stories from.”
On behalf of his peers valedictorian Eric Kline thanked all the parents and the teachers who helped get them to the finish line. He acknowledged that he was supposed to give a bit of advice.
“Go out and be productive with your lives,” Kline said.
But he spent most of his time encouraging his fellow students:
“We are done today, done with high school. We’ve gone to the next step… I assure you we’re ready to move on.”
Salutatorian Kyle Werner shared a poem, “The Ode to ’09,” that he’d written for the occasion. He called it a sonnet and asked for the music to begin. It did, and he proceeded to rap. He touched on the diversity of the student body, the good memories of high school, rivalry with Battle Mountain and more:
The best of the best is what we are
Athletes, scholars, all talented by far.
As we walk ‘cross the stage
With our heads held high,
We are both ending a phase
And reaching for the sky.
After the senior musicians performed “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” Strakbein addressed the crowd and, with the help of members of the Board of Education, began giving out the diplomas. Cowbells, bubbles, airhorns and the occasional, ” I love you honey!” erupted from the stands as one by one the grads presented Strakbein with a personalized bracelet. Five handshakes and one round of applause later, each grad was given a diploma and a bouquet of gerber diasies.
After the ceremony the field was chaotic with hugging, laughing families. As they posed for photos they made plans for the coming evening and the summer beyond.
Andrew Hill moved to Eagle County as a sophomore. He’s planning on studying international business at Western State College of Colorado. He can’t wait to start traveling (Luxemburg is top of his list) but in the meantime he’s content to spend time with family and friends ” and at the upcoming state track meet.
Ashley Atkinson is headed a bit farther afield to the University of Puget Sound where she’ll study biology and the Classics.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I love the rain.”
It’s a good thing, as she’ll get plenty of it.
Jessica Graham will be in classrooms, too, but not in college. She hopes to become a teaching assistant in a local school before going on to get her teaching certification. Mr. Gabriel and Mrs. Aden top her list of inspiring teachers.
Angelica Varela has lived in Eagle County her entire life. After a two-year stint at Colorado Mountain College, she plans to transfer to Mesa State College where she’ll complete her psychology major.
“I’m going to miss our teachers so much, like Miss Rita and Mr. Arroya,” Varela said. “And Mr. Strakbein ” he’s the best. He really does care.”
Cesar Castillo has played soccer with the same teammates for years. Everything will be different on the field of Cerritos College in L.A., where he’ll join the soccer team.
“They’re going to be way better than me,” Castillo said. But he looks more excited than worried.
“His friend, Ariel Rodriguez, is staying in Colorado; he’ll study engineering at CU.
“I like to know how things work,” he explained.
Standing next to Rodriguez, Omar Zapata grinned. He’s starting college at CMC, but then plans to transer to Denver.
“I’m going to study dentistry,” Zapata said, waving his hand near his bright, white teeth.
Amanda Nelson will spend her long summer between high school and college getting ready to move to Ft. Collins, where she’ll study criminal justice.
“With the economy, I knew I’d need to choose something that would give me a job right away,” Nelson said about her major. “I’m going to miss all my friends, but this is awesome.”
The state of the economy has even penetrated the walls of local high schools. There are a lot of people who don’t know what the next four years are going to be like. Unlike most, the graduates of Eagle Valley High School seem excited about it.