Moffat County Class of 2019 keeps hope, heart, humor during graduation ceremony
Sharing thanks, enjoying some laughs, and shedding a few tears are an indicator of the emotional levels that always seem to come with Moffat County High School graduation.
And, this year was no exception.
MCHS said goodbye to 121 graduates during the annual commencement ceremony Saturday morning.
KennaLee Rowley greeted the crowd, setting the tone for hopefulness for the future, getting choked up slightly as she addressed families, friends and fellow near-graduates.
Principal Kyle York acknowledged the final group of Moffat County students he will see in his last year with the school — clad in a white robe covered with senior signatures — including the top honor students and Bulldogs bound for the military.
Likewise, Paula Duzik read off the lengthy list of scholarship recipients, noting the $68,000 coming from local sources alone.
Outgoing Student Council President Hali Reyes and Vice President Terry Gillett announced the 2019 class gift, which will be twofold: a new mural on the school grounds and a new set of furniture for the common area.
Following was the presentation of the awards for Outstanding Senior Boy and Girl.
In presenting the former, teacher Heather Fross noted the recipient’s range of talent from music to multiple sports. But, one character trait stuck out.
“The most inspiring thing about this young man is his kindness,” she said. “He reminded me how powerful kindness can be. He reminded me that kindness, when done repeatedly, has the power to improve the entire school and community.”
Fross went on to announce AJ Barber as the award winner, bringing him up to the stage to thunderous applause.
In introducing the senior girl honoree, Amy Hansen said the academic acumen of Molly Neton shows just how far she’ll go, including a masterful writing style Hansen described as “thoughtful, insightful, clever and clear” on top of her multitude of pursuits with a knack for all-around learning.
“To say this young lady is a sponge for knowledge would be a disservice,” Hansen said. “A sponge is passive, it soaks up what’s around it and after that the best it can do is squeeze it back out. This young lady is anything but passive as a learner. She seeks opportunities to improve and challenge herself so she can grow into the best person she can possibly be.”
Caroline Riley followed with the commencement address, noting her classmates’ diversity of interests and personalities as adding something new to the group that had spent so many years together.
“You are just one addition to this beautiful world, and I hope you understand that your differences are what make this life worth exploring,” she said.
Riley and numerous other seniors clad in cap and gown joined the MCHS choir for the a cappella rendition of Z. Randall Stroope’s “Let Your Heart Be Staid” before hustling back for the main event as they took to the stage for the diplomas and tassel turn they and the audience were all awaiting.
Air horns, confetti and cell phone cameras held aloft celebrated the processional.
No sooner was all said and done, caps tossed in the air, before Sambu Shrestha got the crowd going again with an emotional farewell address.
“We’ve made some amazing memories along the way, and it wouldn’t be possible without the people we’ve had supporting us,” he said.
Shrestha lauded MoCo teachers for their inspiration, support and patience, as well as class parents for their encouragement and love.
“Finally, thank you to the students of Moffat County High School for being a helping hand to each other when we couldn’t find one. For making the worst moments into the funniest jokes and sticking it out and making each other proud,” he said.
Exiting the gym to the upbeat tone of the class song — Smash Mouth’s “All Star” — the young adults who started the day as students walked onto the school lawn, already having singer Steve Harwell’s lyrics in mind, namely “get the show on, get paid.”
For Colton Lodato, that means joining up with the US Army, with multiple motivations including a sense of duty, the career stability and the chance to see the globe.
Still, as much he wants to experience the wider world, he’ll miss the small scale of Craig.
“I love the ability to just walk around here and enjoy it, all the color,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
For Ebawnee Smercina, the next stop of adulthood will be Chadron State College, joining her older brother Eddie in Nebraska, with plans to get a degree in science education.
She credited MCHS teachers Amy Hansen and Clayton Trevenen with instilling an interest in passing on knowledge to the next generation.
“Those two really helped me along the way. I’m really gonna miss them,” she said. “It’s a good feeling knowing I’m growing up and moving on.”
Pedro Romero plans to study close to home at Colorado Northwestern Community College, though the prospect of saying goodbye to many of his friends and classmates was already hitting him hard Saturday after the ceremony.
“It’s hard knowing we won’t see each other every other day. I’ve known them since elementary school, I’ve grown up with them,” he said.
Reyes will spend the fall at University of Tennessee, which she expects will be a bit of culture shock. Although, the Southern humidity will be the big concern.
“Hopefully, they have air conditioning,” she chuckled.
Reyes is confident she’ll look back fondly on her time in Moffat County, but she’s already focused on the future.
“I have a lot of hope for myself and where life takes me,” she said. “Right now, I’m just thinking, ‘go with the flow, trust your gut.'”
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