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Graduates of the Gilpin Class of 2017 spread their wings

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Eagles hold commencement exercises

by Patty Unruh

Gilpin County High School’s Class of 2017 reached the end of twelve years of hard work and got a piece of paper to show for it. A very important piece of paper – the high school diploma. Friends and family joined the graduates on Saturday, May 20, in a packed school auditorium for a ceremony filled with happiness, pride, tears, and excitement.

Members of the secondary school staff and the Gilpin County Board of Education took the stage. Everyone rose as the opening notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” sounded and the seniors lined up for their procession down the red-papered aisle. Some looked serious, others grinned and slapped hands with their parents, and still others looked a bit uneasy in the limelight. It was a big day in which everyone was to play a role.

The crowd turned to face the American flag with hands on hearts as senior Lindsey James performed the “National Anthem.” Then they settled into their seats and were welcomed by Secondary Principal Alexis Donaldson.

She drew chuckles from the audience when she declared, “This was the first time that the seniors had their last day of school canceled due to snow!”

Superintendent David MacKenzie noted that Gilpin County School was established in 1921. He recognized past alumni; many audience members from 1965 through 2016 rose at his invitation.

Student Dante Nadeau introduced commencement speaker Judge Jack Berryhill. Berryhill is a former district court judge in the First Judicial District, where he handled cases for Jefferson and Gilpin counties.

Berryhill introduced his theme of role models. He stepped away from the podium and, going over to the seniors, put them on the spot a bit by asking each one individually, “Who is your hero?”

Although some mentioned coaches or other role models, most said their parents were their heroes.

“We’re getting a pattern here,” Berryhill smiled. “Mine is Abraham Lincoln.”

He returned to the podium. “Lincoln stood for the ideals and values that I admire. This year is the 154th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln spoke only 272 words in less than two minutes in that speech. He said that our country was dedicated, not to race, ethnic group, religion, philosophy, or language, but to a proposition – an idea – of equality for everyone. Ours is the only country dedicated to an idea.”

Berryhill tied his admiration of Lincoln to Lincoln’s appointment of William Gilpin as the first Governor of the Territory of Colorado. Berryhill praised Gilpin’s measures involving equality for those who spoke various languages and came from diverse racial backgrounds.

He then named several sports figures who could qualify as role models or heroes, stating that their accomplishments required practice, determination, and discipline.

Berryhill gave the graduates some food for thought as he asked, “Who will you be a role model for?”

He referred to the ‘70’s hit song “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

“Yesterday’s gone. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” Berryhill quoted. The song says that tomorrow will soon be here and things will be better than before.

“Is there any better or more equal hope in the world than you are?” he asked the graduates. “Don’t stop!”

After Berryhill’s address, senior Braedyn Perez presented the class gift, a microwave for use by future students.

Salutatorian Nicholas Raez related moving to Gilpin County with his family only a year ago. He thought he had known what to say in his speech, but bemoaned a case of writer’s block.

“Words fall short of all that this has meant,” he said. “This has been the most enlightening and important part of my life. It’s been an adventure to be here.”

Rachel Schmalz, salutatorian, agreed that speech writing is tough.

“I wrote this eight times,” she admitted. “How can you put the last four years into words? Today marks the end of high school, and I wish I had known how much I will miss it and all of the memories I’ve made – the sports, the fire drills, the uncomfortable desks, the teachers, my fellow graduates. We’ll no longer walk down these hallways, but it will be time for us to make decisions for ourselves and do something worth doing. If that doesn’t scare us, what will? Let’s stand for the good and strike down the evil. Let’s make a difference and put everything we can into life. We did it, Class of 2017!”

School counselor Kim Cobb announced scholarship winners. The class members earned $398,850 in financial awards. For a complete listing, please see the article on scholarship awards in this issue of the Weekly Register-Call.

As the tune “May We All” by Florida Georgia Line played, the seniors presented tulips, the class flower, to parents and other people who had helped them succeed. “Do a little bit better than the first time, learn a little something from the worst times … yeah, you learn to fly.”

This was followed by the senior slide show, compiled by students Rachel Schmalz and Breanna Kennedy.

At last, it was time for the big moment: the presentation of diplomas. As their names were announced, each graduate marched proudly across the stage to receive that precious piece of paper and pose for photos.

The 2017 graduates were Alexis Anderson, Berkley Davis, Annabel Diekman, Joshua Egan, Eric Miyake-Garcia, Keldon Hutcheson, Matthew Immordino, Lindsey James, Breanna Kennedy, Sabrina Lopez Fonseca, Eryk Lorenz, Dante Nadeau, Braedyn Perez, Nicholas Peterson, Nicholas Raez, Kaleb Ritter, Rachel Schmalz, Keely Schmidt, Samuel Snyder, and Joshua Swan.

The ceremony came to its climax as the graduates were presented to the audience. Trumpets sounded the theme from Rocky, caps flew exuberantly, and cheers and applause erupted.

The role models of the Class of 2017 are gonna fly now!

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