The positive characteristics of the Paonia High School Class of 2014 extend far beyond the classroom. In his commencement introduction, principal Randal Palmer said he received an email from the steakhouse where the class ate during last week’s senior trip.
The owner “was so impressed with the attitudes and the behavior of these young people,” that she gave them a discount on their meal. And Grand Junction Motor Speedway, which called them “the greatest group of kids we’ve ever had here,” gave them enough of a discount to pay for drinks and popcorn at the movie.
Because of their attitude, their behavior, and their appreciation to all of the people who served them that day,” the class received about $1,000 in discounts. Fitting for a class whose motto is: “You live your life only once, but if you live it right, once is enough.”
Valedictorians Carson Pipher, William Austin, Taylor Polson, Skylar Simpson and Jason Sturgis, and salutatorians Braiden Clement and Chloe Helmer wove the themes of service, character, boldness, joyfulness, leadership, integrity and perseverance throughout their speeches, beginning with Clement, who said that life is written in verse, and asked classmates, “What will your verse be?”
“For some of us,” said Pipher, who was offered more than $60,000 in scholarships and will attend Colorado Mesa University, “our verse will be written in a bold print.”
Bold, said Pipher, “is to know where you stand even in times of challenge and controversy… To be bold is to have undying faith, faith in what you stand for, faith in who you are, faith in what you’ll become.”
“For some of us, our verse will be one of service,” said Simpson. “Seeing an appreciation in the eyes of the individual you serve creates a powerful, cyclical effect in which both you and the person you serve are inspired to continue participating in the actions of service.”
“There are too many people who think the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught,” said Polson. “The Class of 2014 has displayed, and will continue to show, great integrity and should be extremely proud of the tenacity they have utilized.”
“All of us have created wonderful memories filled with laughter and happiness,” said Sturgis, “and now we have come to the point in our journeys where we must store those memories as encouragement and begin to create a new joy in this new chapter of our lives.”
“For some of us,” stated Helmer, “our verse is written against all odds.” Helmer noted the overwhelming odds Thomas Edison faced while creating his greatest inventions, and Albert Einstein, who failed in school, but “who turned out to be pretty good in math. However, our perseverance my not yield results such as E=mc2, but we can persevere and achieve anything that we put our precious time and effort into.”
Pipher and Sturgis were awarded the Rockwell Cup for outstanding male and female graduate in recognition of leadership, scholastics and service. Sturgis and Polson were awarded the P Blanket for top athletic honors.
English teacher Kriss Allen, a 1999 PHS graduate, P Blanket winner and one of four family members to receive the Rockwell Cup Award, spoke of courage and gratefulness in her commencement address. “If you’re grateful for what you have, you will always have enough.” She explained her five steps to courage, and urged students to make their own happiness, seek people who support them, “and get used to feeling stupid. It’s a sign of growth.”
In these times of mass communication, she urged them to limit their use of technology and build personal relationships. “Be mindful of what you post to the world.” In establishing a name for themselves, remember, “You are what you do today, and not what you will do tomorrow.”
While “true terror is to wake up one morning and discover your class is running the country,” Allen said she expects that one day, “You guys will wake up and realize that this class, your class, the class of 2014, is running the world. And my hopes are high.”
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