Rain or shine, Eagle Valley grads say goodbye
Eagle Valley High School valedictorian Charly Hoehn says her classmates are fighters, capable of seeing tough times through. By the end of Saturday morning’s graduation ceremony, most in the audience would likely agree. Rain, wind and a myriad of sound system problems threatened to spoil the Class of 2004’s graduation ceremony. But the 129 graduates, their family and friends saw the event through.”I’m glad that it’s raining,” Principal Mark Strakbein, told the crowd, which had filled the home side of bleachers at the school’s Hot Stuff Stadium. “That means this is a special class. It truly does.”A troop of helicopters from the nearby Colorado National Guard High Altitude Training Site flew over the crowd just before the band broke into the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional. The copters had messages like “EVHS,” written in on the side in red, white and black – the school colors.
Graduates clad in black gowns and caps marched through the football field toward their seats and soon after they did, the rain began. Prepared audience members popped up their umbrellas, and sound system coordinators scrambled for trash bags to protect their equipment. Hoehn walked up to the podium to begin her speech.”I don’t know if I’m crying now or if it’s just the rain dripping off my face,” she said. Perseverance through difficulties was the theme for Hoehn’s, now particularly apt, speech. Her class, she told the audience, had been through several challenges – two principals, three vice principals and several faculty changes.But perhaps the biggest heartache for the class was the death of classmate Skylar Hootman, who was killed in a Homecoming night car accident in 2002. His death affected the entire class, even those who didn’t know him, she said. “I think there is a little piece of Skylar in all of us now,” she said.
The senior musicians began a rendition of pop singer Christina Aguilera’s “Cruz”, only to be cut short when the sound system went out. Strakbein decided to improvise, by having co-salutatorian Paige Mickley go ahead and give his speech, which urged his classmates to make the most of their post-graduate career.Mid-way through his speech, the sound system popped back on and the rain stopped for a moment. The senior musicians took advantage of the sunshine and performed “Cruz” from start to finish and allowed the school’s choir to perform its scheduled song, “I Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot.Borrowing from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, senior Trista Sandoval told her peers that her dream was that all of her classmates would in some way make a difference in the world.Featured speaker Todd Hennessey, an Eagle Valley graduate, former teacher and firefighter, recalled his experience with the class of 2004. He was their eighth-grade social science teacher.”The class of 2004 stood out,” he said. “As a class so passionate about learning and so passionate about arguing.
“Never get so caught up making a living that you forget to have a life,” he added.Strakbein was able to use his microphone to present about one-third of the class with their diplomas and then the rain turned into a downpour. The sound system went out again, but a clearly determined Strakbein simply yelled as loud as he could each of the remaining graduates’ names.Rain or shine, each received their high school diplomas. They moved their tassels to the left and just before they scattered out of the chilly rain, they tossed their caps into the air.Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607. Staff photographer Shane Macomber contributed to this report.