Mortarboards fly Saturday in the Moffat County High School gymnasium at the conclusion of the Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Roughly 3,000 community members attended the ceremony, during which 136 seniors were awarded diplomas.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Mortarboards fly Saturday in the Moffat County High School gymnasium at the conclusion of the Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Roughly 3,000 community members attended the ceremony, during which 136 seniors were awarded diplomas.

MCHS graduates 136 seniors from the Class of 2011

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During her commencement address, Moffat County High School senior Lauren Roberts evoked the first day of kindergarten.

“This day was far from our minds,” Roberts recalled. “But, on that day, when our moms dropped us off at the door and went to the car to cry, we took our first steps on the road that would eventually lead us to this day.”

On Saturday, roughly 3,000 area residents packed into the MCHS gymnasium to watch 136 seniors stride across the stage and become graduates.

The event included performances by the MCHS Band and MCHS Senior Choir Members.

The event also paid tribute to the school’s retiring teachers and exceptional students.

In all, 38 students received scholarships and 15 were noted as honor graduates.

MCHS seniors Mandi Ellgen and Slade Gurr were named this year’s outstanding seniors. Ellgen, Roberts and Janalee Brown were chosen to present welcome, commencement and farewell addresses, respectively.

Then, after a flurry of mortarboards, the graduates rose to their feet and exited the gymnasium into bright sunshine, fair weather and a bustling crowd of family members and well-wishers.

MCHS graduate Maritza Almaraz said she was the first person to leave the gym. And, in doing so, she accomplished another first.

“I’m the first one to graduate in my family,” she said.

Standing among her family, Almaraz said she moved to Craig from Mexico six years ago and started going to the middle school. When she arrived, she didn’t speak English.

Now a fluent speaker, Almaraz finished high school with A’s and B’s, she said. She credits the district’s teachers and the English Language Learners program for her success.

“They were really supportive,” she said of her teachers. “They had to explain a lot of stuff to me so I could understand it.

“I couldn’t understand anything. And, you feel really bad when you can’t understand anything.”

Roberts, in her commencement address, said graduation was not an endpoint, but rather another first step in a new journey.

Outside, MCHS graduate Jaime Sandoval echoed that sentiment.

“It feels great,” he said. “It feels like a new stage of life.”

Sandoval plans to attend Colorado School of Mines in the fall to study mechanical engineering. Sandoval’s mother, Maria

Sandoval, said this next step comes with conflicted emotion.

“I’m excited and nervous,” she said. “I’m going to cry, for sure. You know how moms are.”

MCHS graduate Gage Spears said his next step is a big one.

In the fall, Spears will go on a two-year mission on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His destination so far is unknown.

“They’ll send me wherever they want,” he said.

Spears’ mother, Mindy Spears, said she’s proud of her son, but it’s difficult to let go.

“That’s going to be hard,” she said of his mission. “I won’t see him for two years.”

MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said the ceremony was a success thanks to students and the community.

“This is one of the biggest events in Moffat County,” he said. “How good is it that we’re gathered together for kids finishing their education in the district? So many people come together to celebrate that.”

The graduating seniors were well behaved at the event, he added.

“They were stellar,” he said. “They did a great job. There were not tons of shenanigans.

“It was a wonderful graduation.”

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