Delta High School's Class of 2016 set a level of high expectations all future Panthers will strive for, principal Derek Carlson said during commencement ceremonies Sunday. During his opening remarks, Carlson said collectively the class posted the highest composite ACT score in the history of Delta High School. Graduates posted the highest number of quality points on 552 AP exams, saving thousands of dollars in college tuition.
The Class of 2016 also pioneered the Academy of Health Sciences and the high altitude balloon launch, counselor Shawna Magtutu said later during the ceremony. Of the 148 graduates, 65 are headed to college or vocational training, 11 are entering the U.S. military (including nine enlisting in the Army), and two will be playing collegiate sports. Graduates garnered $72,000 in local scholarship awards and a total of $1.2 million in merit aid.
But that's just the starting point, said salutatorian Uyen Nguyen. "It's time to take the next step that is the journey of our lives."
Co-salutatorian Sara Jurca read a poem about glitter and glue, urging her classmates to be the glitter that will make the world a better place, while remembering the glue that has stuck with them and provided support -- parents, pastors, friends and family members.
Class valedictorians were Mykayla Music and Alan Carrasco. Mykayla shared memories about recess, where they learned to be daring, to let their imaginations soar, and weren't afraid to get messy. "Our future is beginning and we are sliding into adulthood," she said. "Each of us has a chance to be king of the jungle gym."
Alan said the journey to graduation has been marked by both good and bad experiences. He urged his classmates to embrace the positive experiences, and to let go of all the rest. "High school was not meant to determine your future," he said.
The commencement speaker sat in the seats occupied by the graduates just seven years ago. Katie Chapman Schmalz is a 2009 Delta High School graduate and a Boettcher Scholar. She studied real estate and business at the University of Denver, and earned her MBA in entrepreneurship. After marrying Luke Schmalz, another DHS graduate, they returned to Delta where both are pursuing business ventures.
Katie said she never expected to end up back in Delta, but "love does crazy things to us all." That was the first of four lessons she shared with graduates. The second: "Whatever you do, wherever you go, practice fanatical, radical integrity." As examples of honest, truthful individuals who have impacted her life, Katie held up Rob Ames, a Delta High School teacher, and her mother, a physician who treats everyone with respect.
Third, "Don't let anyone define your success," and fourth, "Age is just a number." With her last point, Katie referred to her dad, who she said can outhike and outthink her.
She closed her comments with a powerful pep talk recorded by 12-year-old Robby Novak.
As DHS teacher Marty Rover deftly called off the names of the graduates, Shawna Magtutu read the students' awards and future plans. Fellow counselor Holly Teyler-Crowder, school board member Jill Jurca, and assistant principals Rosie Johnson and Jeremy McCormick handed out diplomas. Coming off the stage, graduates were congratulated by school superintendent Caryn Gibson, assistant superintendent Kurt Clay, Derek Carlson, DHS teacher Danielle Lopez, Katie Chapman Schmalz and school board member Ron Germann.
In the grandstands and along the track at Panther Stadium, parents and family members cheered as the graduates held up their diplomas for photos.