Gratitude: Moffat County Class of 2021 grateful to celebrate graduation day together |

Gratitude: Moffat County Class of 2021 grateful to celebrate graduation day together

The Moffat County High School Class of 2021 stands one final time inside the gymnasium Saturday after receiving their diplomas. (Joshua Carney / Craig Press)


That was the message Lauren Hilley focused on throughout her commencement speech Saturday, highlighting how grateful the Moffat County High School Class of 2021 and its parents and family members were to be able to celebrate in person after two difficult years filled with changes and fear of the unknown.

Hilley spoke on gratitude to her fellow classmates, parents in the stands, the Moffat County Board of Education behind her, and the faculty and staff members at the high school, all of whom played a key role in getting the Class of 2021 back into the building for their final year, a year they’ve worked so hard to get to.

“We have learned to be grateful in spite of our suffering,” Hilley said to her fellow classmates. “Life is hard, can be unfair and is always unpredictable….We shared an experience this past year as a school, community and nation that was a harder-than-expected wake-up call.

Senior Lauren Hilley addresses the Class of 2021 during her commencement speech Saturday. (Joshua Carney / Craig Press)

“Today doesn’t quite look like our fantastical grade-school interpretation of high school graduation — though it does come close,” Hilley added. “But it doesn’t need to.”

After watching the Class of 2020 lose out on their final few months of school, along with the traditional graduation, the Class of 2021 went through some difficult summer months wondering if they’d return to school.

Thankfully, due to the hard work of the school board and the staff, the Class of 2021 was able to experience what it’s like to be a senior, just in a slightly unusual way.

That alone, Hilley said, has instilled perseverance and resilience in each member of the Class of 2021.

“We’re now properly equipped to handle all of life’s persistently inevitable challenges,” Hilley said. “In a chaotic year, we’re still able to graduate with gratitude in our hearts and do so together.

“We will not let our generation be defined by COVID-19,” Hilley added. “Instead, we will be defined by what we have learned from it, but instead our legacy will be in the lessons that have bettered us as individuals…2021 has signified a class that is grateful for all that we have, determined in all that we will do, and indomitable in spirit.”

Prior to Hilley’s commencement speech, MCHS honored the 28 students who received scholarships, of which more than $66,000 came from the Moffat County community.

Following the honoring of the scholarship winners, principal Sarah Hepworth took a moment to honor the three students from the Class of 2021 that will embark on a journey in the military, addressing Alyssa Nicole Louthan-Rieger (United States Army), Justin Thomas Varner (United States Marine Corps), and Sean Tyler Lee Fallon (United States Army).

Senior Alyssa Louthan-Rieger waits to cross the stage and receive her diploma Saturday. (Joshua Carney / Craig Press)

“This entire gym and this community thanks you for your commitment to ensuring our freedom, and our way of life,” Hepworth said. “I wish you a safe journey as you embark upon this noble career,” which drew a standing ovation from the packed gymnasium.

In her farewell message, Julia Chavez addressed the class as a whole one final time, reflecting on the Class of 2021’s high school experience.

“It’s time to find our passions and it’s time to figure out what we’re meant to do and follow the dreams we have,” Chavez said. “We are gratefully saying goodbye to high school and welcoming the next big chapter in our lives.

“Seniors, I wish you all the best of luck in what the future will bring to you and the difference you will make in the world, in whatever you aspire to be. Congratulations, Class of 2021.”

Managing Editor Joshua Carney can be reached at 970-875-1790 or

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