The PHS gymnasium was filled to near capacity Saturday, in celebration of a pivotal and honored tradition: graduation. The class graduated 39 in Saturday's ceremony — 18 girls and 21 boys.
This year's valedictorians are Benjamin Justman, Alexandria Farnsworth, Vela Bair and Jessica Altman.
Bair and Altman gave their commencement speech together. They were happy to be graduating, but they also recognized the support of friends and family that made it all possible. Referring to a 1911 Paonia Aerie yearbook, they noted how this area has always been known for its strong family and community ties. And while much has changed in 100 years, these ties remain a big part of the community.
Altman referred to a quote in the yearbook that Paonia is small and out of the way, "But come and see for yourself that we are progressive and have improvements that we may well be proud of."
"Not much has changed," said Bair, "But that's a good thing. This sense of family is what brings fans to the football games, relatives to our art performances, and makes us out-cheer any other team when we go to support."
With much support, the class of 2012 has accomplished much, including meeting their ACT goals, posting outstanding seasons in sports that included a state championship in wrestling and fourth-places finishes at state in baseball and girls basketball, said salutatorian Mary Moll. "Mentioning all of the other accomplishments would be impossible."
Keynote speaker Scott Rienks humorously began by sharing a bit of nervous advice to the graduates: "If someone ever asks you to do this, say 'no.'"
In addition to teaching P.E. and weights, Rienks is head Paonia Eagles football coach and girls basketball coach and an assistant track coach. Speaking to the graduates as individuals, he reminded them to live by example and, as leaders, show great character. "You never know whose eyes are on you, whether 18 or 80."
Rienks quoted coaches including John Calipari and John Wooden in looking at the team as an analogy of life, but also gave advice in his own words. "Go find the heart in your team," he said. "It's amazing what gets done when nobody cares who gets the credit," said Rienks, who led the girls basketball team to a state championship in 2010 and has taken the team to state 4 of the past 5 years.
Whether they are heading to college, trade school or the military, said Rienks, "You will be at the bottom looking up." At this stage, it's all about setting goals.
This year's graduates already have goals. Most will work this summer, in the mines and in coffee shops, on local farms and ranches or at Ollie's Ice Cream. This fall, most plan to seek higher education or learn a trade. They plan to study culinary arts and sports medicine, biology and business, electrical engineering and aeronautical science, journalism and nursing.
At least one plans to enlist in in each of the following military branches: the U.S. Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy. Another will work toward his pilot's license
Five plan to study nursing, and four hope to carry on a long tradition of working in the mines. Another others plan to study ranch management or continue family traditions in agriculture. One plans to become a full-time firefighter, another dentist, and another an "awesome-possum, super-duper lawyer."
Nine are National Honor Society members.
Four athletes, two baseball players, a runner and a soccer player, plan to take their respective sport and their education to a higher level.
Many displayed their creative talents by decorating their mortar boards. Some were in honor of specific achievements, a school track record, a goal, or just the fact that they were members of the class of 2012. One Navy-bound graduate's board depicted a Navy battleship grid, including ships.
This year's Rockwell Cup awards went to Jessica Altman and Adrian Lopez. Named after Aileen M. and Robert F. Rockwell, cup winners are selected by a vote of the student body, based on the nominee's character, leadership abilities, scholastic achievement and volunteerism. This was the 104th year the award was given.
Altman and Lopez also received the P-Blanket, awarded annually to the outstanding graduating male and female athlete. Altman participated in volleyball and basketball and was a member of the state champion basketball team. Lopez was a 4-year member of the Paonia football, wrestling and baseball teams, including the 2012 state champion wrestling team.
This year's Cherry Days king and queen are Anthony Roeber and Kayla Wilczek
All combined, the class was offered scholarships, grants and work study money totaling $1,400,507.
In describing her classmates, Mary Moll called them "... bold, daring, and not reluctant to leaven an impression on the school before we left."blog comments powered by Disqus