Graduation 2018: Moffat County valedictorian, salutatorian leave impressive legacy
May 26, 2018
With lots of hard work, both in and outside the classroom, Moffat County seniors Colby Beckett and Olivia Neece earned their spots at the top of the class of 2018.
Colby Beckett, valedictorian
Between serving on the officer board of Future Farmers of America, playing varsity baseball and football and even driving 45 miles one-way for hockey practice in Steamboat Springs, senior Colby Beckett put in the work to be recognized as valedictorian.
Traveling for so many sports often meant he was gathering assignments and turning them in before he hit the road. Dodging procrastination was key, he said.
"I'll be honest. Sometimes, I wasn't the best about balancing it," he said with a laugh.
A four-year alumnus of the Moffat County FFA, Beckett spent his summers in the field on his family's land and working as a ranch hand on a Hayden farm. He served as the FFA's treasurer during his senior year, and he helped bring home a bronze medal on the forestry team at FFA Nationals this year.
In September, Beckett intends to extend both his athletic and academic careers at Colorado Mesa University, where he plans to study mechanical engineering. He's interested in eventually working with water or agriculture, but added he's keeping his doors open.
He'll also continue a successful high school football career by joining the CMU Mavericks on the gridiron as a walk-on player. During his time on the Bulldog's defensive line, Beckett finished the year with more tackles than any other player in the 2A Western Slope League. This year, he also tied for the most sacks in the league.
But, when he reflects on his time at MCHS, he said he doesn't see his impressive football statistics, the national FFA competition or his game-changing grand slam against Eagle Valley in a baseball game earlier this year as his greatest accomplishment.
"I am most proud of keeping my grades up. My mom would tell me I am capable of anything, as long as I worked hard and I studied," Beckett said. "I'm just proud that I made them (his parents) happy for me and that I was able to keep all my grades up and balance that with sports and different activities."
"I'm glad to move onto bigger things, but I'm going to miss a lot of my friends and also the teachers that helped me through along the way," he said.
Olivia Neece, salutatorian
Senior Olivia Neece says she wants to change the world, and locally, she has already proven she can make an impact.
Disappointed by Moffat County High School's sexual education curriculum, which teaches an abstinence-only approach to sex and birth control, Neece took on the issue with a coalition of students and community members. The group introduced a series of seminars for high-school and middle-school students called "Building a Better You."
"We eventually got three seminar-type classes for students," Neece said. "That was a really big accomplishment, especially as a sophomore and junior. I was like 'Wow, I can actually make a difference as someone so young.'"
The seminars were initially offered in a classroom at Colorado Northwest Community College. Now, with the support of the school board, Neece said the seminars are being hosted more frequently and in a more convenient location for students: at Moffat County High School.
The program has also expanded. The seminars now educate teens on topics such as substance abuse and recognizing abusive relationships, in addition to contraception, abstinence and other elements of comprehensive sexual education.
"Now, I don't know if we influenced it, but there's a health class at the high school," Neece said. "I don't think it's sex-ed inclusive, but it wasn't here before."
Neece plans to attend the University of Colorado Denver in the fall, where she'll study political science. Her long-term goal is to become a diplomat or ambassador for the United States government. She sees politics as an easier way to make an impact.
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"I'm passionate about making a change in things that are wrong," she said. "I'll have a bigger voice."
This summer, though, she's happy to have a break from the hustle of homework and the demands of numerous school clubs. She'll be working at her part-time job until she leaves for Denver.
"It was kind of nice to grow up in a small town, but I am ready to go a big town," Neece said. "There are definitely parts I'll miss, but (there’s) stuff that I'm looking forward to, as well."
But, before she graduates from MCHS, she has a message for the grown-ups out there: Give high school students some credit.
"I want parents or teachers or adults, in general, to know how hard high school students work," she said. "A lot of high school students just do the bare minimum to get by, but there are those few that just give it every single minute they have, every day. I think that gets overlooked a lot."