‘Thank you for what you stand for’
GYPSUM, Colorado – Strong men and women insisted that, at Eagle Valley High School’s commencement Saturday, their eyes were moist because they got sunscreen in them.
Eagle Valley graduated its class of 2011 on a Saturday morning boasting beautiful weather.
Mark Strakbein, the national principal of the year, graduated right along with them. He’s retiring. He welcomed family, parents, the community and finally the graduates themselves.
“I think of a graduation as returning home,” Strakbein said, asking all former EVHS students to stand. More than one-third of the overflow crowd got to their feet, basking in the early-morning sun.
Music department director Pat Sheehy led the select choir in “(Shine a Light) Send It On.”
Later the senior musicians played “Here Comes the Sun,” and it had arrived already, shining so brightly that many in the crowd had their commencement programs doing double duty as a sun shade.
Brittany Rathsburg, this year’s valedictorian, carried a 4.4 grade-point average. Salutatorian Jessica Dondero earned a 4.38.
“Leaving this school, I am convinced we have the ability to meet the world with what we’ve learned,” Rathsburg said. “The Eagle Valley community has helped raise some amazing people, and for that I say, ‘Thank you.'”
When they started as freshmen, it seemed like it would take forever for four years to go by, Rathhsburg said. That summer lasted five months because the building was being remodeled and expanded.
“And now here we are,” Rathsburg said.
Life after high school will not be easy, Dondero said.
“If anyone can master this world of mountains and valleys, it’s the Eagle Valley High School class of 2011,” Dondero said.
As for waiting for opportunities to present themselves, she admonished her fellow graduates to create their own.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door,” Dondero said.
When it was Strakbein’s turn to address his final Eagle Valley class, he made it about the graduates, as he always has. He turned the lectern around, away from the crowd, to face the graduates. He told a story about a farmer with eight sons who learned that when they worked together they could accomplish much more than they could on their own.
When Strakbein talked to the class of 2011 as juniors, asking what they wanted to be remembered for, they talked about togetherness.
For a canned-food drive, this class and school gave more than any other. When a blood drive came around, they needed two buses instead of one.
“It’s not time to say goodbye. It’s time to send you out,” Strakbein said. “You have my respect, my excitement. Thank you for what you stand for. Congratulations.”
And with that, the graduates’ names were called and they walked across the stage, picked up their diplomas and a red rose from members of the junior class, left the stage, turned their tassels from left to right, and strode confidently toward the rest of their lives.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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