by Heather Worrell
Commencement ceremonies were completed for the Class of 2015 at Gilpin County High School last Saturday, May 16th. It was a momentous occasion filled with laughter, tears, pride, joy and disbelief as the next graduating class celebrated past accomplishments and embraced their future possibilities. Fifteen students made up Gilpin County High School’s Class of 2015. After the students filed into the Miller-Headrick Auditorium to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, Senior Nina Halsted played the national anthem on her violin. Principal Alexis Donaldson welcomed graduates, staff and guests. Superintendent Dr. Dave MacKenzie recalled the history of public school in Gilpin County dating back to 1862. He honored past and the soon-to-be alumni.
Senior Stephanie Siegrist introduced the commencement address speaker and school board member Brook Ramsey as “a large role model to her” and to many of the students. Ramsey expressed gratitude for having the privilege to watch the students grow up over the years and to be involved in their lives as their Girl Scout leader or coach. She shared words of advice for the graduates based upon Dr. Phil’s Formula for Success that includes ten characteristics common for people who succeed. Her advice included: 1) Have a vision. 2) Make a strategy. 3) Find a passion. 4) Live the truth. 5) Be flexible. 6) Take risks. 7) Create a strong nucleus. 8) Take action. 9) Set priorities. 10) Take care of yourself.
Ramsey also remembered mother Carla Planck of two graduates, Ariel and Sierra Planck. Reminding them that she was there today by remembering her legacy and passion. She warned that life is not a success-only journey. “True success is a string of worthy accomplishments that your heart is deeply connected to. This will look different for each of you – athletes, musicians, stay at home moms and doctors. May each of you find success soaked with emotion, powered by passion and forged with fire of the heart.”
Senior Ariel Planck presented the class gift, two eight by six foot custom logo mats to adorn the entrance to the school and the main gymnasium. The gift was chosen because the Class of 2015 felt it would help keep the school clean and also “when people walk in, they will remember us.” It would be especially hard to forget such a special and unique group of kids – all with their own passions, talents and skills. The graduates have plans to do everything from audio recording, military service, to pastry cooking, law enforcement, social work and political science to holistic health.
Salutatorian Delainey Lepro first thanked the staff of Gilpin County School for their time and dedication as teachers over the years, as some of them even taught the graduating class their ABC’s and 123’s. She encouraged her classmates and reminded them “the potential we have is unfathomable. We can be anyone or anything we want.” Lepro created humor and history by taking Gilpin County’s first largest group selfie with the aid of a new invention, the selfie stick. She reminisced about various funny moments with her classmates over the years. She assured them, “You have the power to be unforgettable. We have real purposes. You will do great things with your lives.”
Valedictorian Alyssa Chareunsouk thanked staff, parents and friends for supporting her and her classmates. She humbly recognized the hard work done by all her classmates to get to this point, noting their journey has been “like Golden Gate Canyon – a winding road.” Chareunsouk demonstrated their journey by displaying a progression of origami figures. She explained that they started as a blank piece of paper and as they traveled through their high school career, they had additional experiences, which she represented with folds in the paper. She explained experience helped to shape the individuals they are today and will become in the future. She concluded with, “It’s only a matter of time until we bloom into beautiful flowers” represented through the presentation of a colorful bouquet of beautiful, intricately folded paper flowers.
School counselor Kirsten Goodlett was proud to announce that the graduating class had done exceptionally well with scholarship awards totaling over $145,000 for the next four years. Every single graduate received scholarship monies to assist them with their post-secondary education and studies. Friends and family immensely supported these youth over the years. Graduates paid tribute to them by gifting their supporters with the class flower, a snapdragon, and playing Carrie Underwood’s song “See You Again” while tears of joy and gratitude filled the auditorium.
These students couldn’t allow that ceremony to be the only reflection of their personalities as they surprised the crowd with a well-choreographed dance to the song “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson. A special slide show presented pictures of the graduates throughout their childhood journey with pictures from baby to senior year. Guests enjoyed celebrating each student and the collective group while reminiscing about the many stepping-stones along the way that had led to the day’s presentation of diplomas by the school board members, Superintendent MacKenzie and Principal Donaldson.
After diplomas were passed out, Principal Alexis Donaldson presented the new Alumni and Gilpin County High School’s Class of 2015 to the audience. The Class chose the song “Good Riddance” by Green Day. Their class motto was: “Our pasts are behind us, our lives are before us, and our memories are forever within us” – unknown. A reception followed in the atrium amongst the graduates and their guests. The Booster Club provided delicious cake and beverages for the crowd to celebrate this commencement.