Hotchkiss High School elected to hold its 2021 graduation ceremony outside and up the hill at its football field. Spectators filled the stands as the wind and an occasional rain drop made for an interesting affair on May 18.

The final graduation for the Hotchkiss Bulldogs opened with Gracie Pham, Anthony Scanlon, Kyray Stevens and Abigail Vespia singing the national anthem.

Pham, class president, welcomed family and friends to the final graduation at the historic high school.

“I hope that you enjoy this moment and celebrate all that you have done. Welcome everyone to the commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021,” Pham told her class and visitors.

“It’s been extremely rewarding to watch you grow as individuals and as a class. I can say without hesitation that your class is an outstanding representative to be the final graduating class of Hotchkiss High School,” said Principal Marty Rover during his opening address.

To celebrate not only the class of 2021 but to also relive some of its colorful history, six former alumni representing different decades gave those in attendance a taste of the past. Speakers included Harold Clay, Susan Spencer, Sandy Brown, Eric Hollembeak, Amelia Baldwin and Nolan Egging.

Clay (60’s) recalled the “wide and powerful” paddle of his principal; Spencer (70’s) spoke fondly about the “cool time to be alive”; Brown (80’s) recalled how “everyone wore 501 Levi’s and tennis shoes”; Hollembeak (90’s) shared his time as a “Bulldog” and teacher/coach remembering the relationships that he developed; Baldwin (2000’s) provided some 2000’s lingo such as “that’s wack dog, cool beans and word”; Egging (2010’s) stated that unlike the other alumni “not nearly as much time has passed since” he went to high school.

“For one they’re producing vaccines for a virus that didn’t even exist when I was in high school, additionally a year from now Hotchkiss High School won’t even be around. Things change fast sometimes and for many of you your lives are about to change very rapidly,” Egging told the graduates. “No matter what, I want to assure you that you will always a part of the Hotchkiss High School community, that is something that will never change.”

Adair Ela, class salutatorian, spoke about weekly sharing of “highlights and lowlights.” She shared some of the highlights and lowlights from the class of 2021. The COVID-19 shutdown was a definite lowlight, while all of the highlights involved relationships between students and teachers.

Co-valedictorians for the class of 2021 were Adam Smith and Ian Van Horn.

Van Horn shared how he procrastinated on writing his speech to the last minute noting that all procrastination means is you had something more interesting to do than school work.

“It’s sad that we’re leaving but it’s more sad that no other classes after us are going to get to graduate from Hotchkiss High. And that’s why it’s important for us to realize that school wasn’t the most important part of high school because whether you loved it or hated it here, soon it’s only going to exist in our minds. And as its last class I think it is our responsibility that the memory of HHS lives on,” Van Horn said.

Smith recalled all the memories he gathered from his teachers and how he will carry those lessons on in his future.

“This community gave the class 2021 a positive high school experience through all the (things) we had to overcome. Thank you North Fork community members,” Smith said.

The high school choir performed “Oceans and Stars” prior to the presentation of the “H” Blanket. The award went to outstanding senior athlete Traycer Hall. Hall competed in football, wrestling and track.

Pham, class president, led her class in the “Rites of Passage” as each senior turned their tassel.

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