Though small in number, the graduates of Hotchkiss High School garnered $533,404 in scholarships. As the graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, those scholarships and each student's career plans were read aloud. Whether they're headed to the workforce, technical/trade school, college or the military, all would agree they're leaving Hotchkiss High School well prepared for the next chapter of their lives.
Salutatorian Colton Hall likened his education to preparing for the opening day of hunting season. As an avid hunter, he said he puts a lot of time into selecting the right gun and the right hunting spot. Very rarely does his scouting pay off on the first day, but when all his hard work finally pays off, he said it's one of the best feelings in the world. "In life, we may not see the results right away but when all is said and done, every single one of us will end up on top, because we're too darn stubborn to give up."
Valedictorian Parker Katzdorn chose three quotations from three varied individuals who have influenced his life in different ways -- Will Smith, Albert Einstein and Pope Paul 6.
From Will Smith, he learned that greatness exists in all of us, and he encouraged his fellow graduates not to settle for mediocrity. High school should not be the last time we challenge ourselves, he said.
From Einstein, he quoted, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." He related that quote to classmates who may not have excelled in school, but have other talents to share with the world.
The final quote, from Pope Paul 6, has inspired him to live every day to the fullest. "Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows."
The commencement address was delivered by Richard Hypio, a former Hotchkiss teacher/assistant principal who recalled walking some of the graduates to the cafeteria when they were in kindergarten in 2004-05. He claimed to be a time traveler who had traveled all the way from 1955 to 2017 to share some observations he'd made on his journey.
He opened his comments by encouraging the graduates to look around at the gym filled with parents, families, teachers, friends and community members, all there to celebrate and support the graduates. "Please take a moment to look around and recognize those who have come out today to help usher you into your next life ... all of us gathered here hope it lives up to your expectations."
Hypio had one final math lesson for his students -- an algebraic equation with LIFE on one side. On the right side of the equal sign you won't find a numeric solution like 6.23, but a sum representing "a nice approximation of a life well lived.
"You will find all your own answers and they will all be different, so don't try copying from anyone else," he said. "Now off you go into the rest of your many lives. use your many and varied talents to make your own contributions to others' lives every day. No one will ever ask more of you."
Assistant principal Doug Egging, filling in for both principal Paul Rodriguez and athletic director Doug Horton, made the annual presentation of the "H" blanket. This award is presented to students who have participated in three sports all four years they were in high school.
Recipients were Colton DeLuzio and Zack Allen. Allen was at the state track meet with Gabe Rodriguez. Principal Rodriguez was also in Denver; Horton was attending his son's college graduation.
A special ceremony was planned at HHS Tuesday to recognize Gabe and Zack.
In addition, five other graduates were unable to attend commencement ceremonies due to work commitments or military service, but all were celebrated.
With prompting from Cara Littlefield, the graduates moved their tassels from right to left, then joined in the school song before heading their separate ways.
The Hotchkiss-Crawford Historial Society will host its annual meeting on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2:00 at the Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss. There will be music, refreshments and a guest speaker, Robert Sibernagel. He is well known in the area as he writes regional history columns for The Daily Sentinel. He was formerly the editorial page editor for that paper for 19 years.