Although the day dawned with springtime clouds and rain, last Thursday's graduation exercises at Cedaredge High School included plenty of symbolic sunshine along with genuine cheers and authentic tears as 66 graduates received their diplomas.
The ceremonies began with a processional as the Cedaredge High School band, minus its five graduating seniors, played the traditional graduation march. Band teacher Rob Wolcott conducted the student musicians who ranged in age from eighth graders to high school juniors. When all seniors had assembled in the school's gymnasium, principal Randy Brown -- himself a 1996 graduate of nearby Delta High School -- welcomed the graduates, their families, and other assembled guests. Brown has served as CHS principal for five years.
Following the principal's welcoming remarks, the CHS band played the national anthem. As the capacity crowd regained their seats, CHS counselor Amanda Cerise asked various groups of accomplished students to stand and be recognized and then she introduced the Class of 2019's honored valedictorians and salutatorians. Valedictorians included Garth Knutson, Maxwell Moore and Julia Jackson. Salutatorians were Abigail Williams and Emily Tullis.
Knutson was the first valedictorian to address his fellow graduates. He told them to listen to the wisdom of others and he praised CHS as a small school which is nonetheless rich in academics and activities. Moore cautioned the graduates to strive for perfection but to also embrace mistakes which he described as valuable learning tools. Jackson advised the graduates that real success comes when you hold yourself to a higher standard. She advised her classmates to set goals, work hard, and believe in themselves.
A musical interlude was provided by Shannon Goff on saxophone and Rob Wolcott on guitar. The duo performed the inspirational song, "I Believe I Can Fly." In addition to being a graduating senior, Goff was recognized in the evening's program as CHS musician of the year.
The evening's keynote speaker was selected by the senior class and that honor went to Chris "CJ" Cannell, a CHS math instructor who also teaches in the school's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program. Cannell noted that a person can be thought of in three ways -- as the person one shows in public, as the person who is known to friends and family and as the person one becomes when he or she is alone. Ideally, a genuine person is the same in every situation. Reminding graduates that they are in charge of their choices -- a responsibility which is both terrifying and exciting -- he challenged the Class of 2019 to be genuine people. He closed with some important advice which his father imparted to him on the day of his wedding.
"He looked me straight in the eye," recalled Cannell, "And then he said: 'If you ever go to a potluck where your wife made something, be sure to eat the dish and compliment her on it.' "
The keynote address was followed by the parent dedication during which each graduate left his or her seat and presented parents and other family members with a thank you flower. This touching ritual was accompanied by a recording of the song "5 More Minutes" in which country singer Scotty McCreery chronicles the steady passage of time from childhood to maturity.
There was barely a dry eye in the house as counselor Cerise and assistant principal/athletic director Brandon Milholland voiced the official introduction of the CHS Class of 2019. It was a particularly bittersweet moment for Milholland who is leaving CHS after nine years at the school.
Then the graduates were called forward as Milholland read each name and Cerise announced each student's post graduation plans with some joining the military, some entering the workforce, and many planning to attend technical colleges and universities. Delta County School District 50J board president Pete Blair, a 40-year county resident, was on hand to present the all-important diplomas to each graduate. Other dignitaries on the stage included senior class sponsor and CHS agriculture instructor Katie Greenwood, district superintendent Caryn Gibson and assistant district superintendent Kurt Clay.
Immediately after receiving a diploma, each student left the stage and walked along the row of CHS teachers to express their appreciation and say their farewells. Then photos of the Class of 2019 were featured in a slide show presentation which juxtaposed baby pictures with contemporary images of each student. The slide show culminated with group photos from elementary and middle school -- a reminder that many of the Class of 2019 have been in school together since the beginning.
As the evening drew to a close the CHS jazz ensemble performed a lively calypso tune entitled "Into the Sun." Then seniors Hannah Gardner, Abigail Williams, and Taj Van der Linde led the graduates in the simultaneous turning of the tassel and -- with a wary eye toward eventual retrieval -- the assembled students tossed their mortarboards into the air. Moments later, family and friends flocked to the gymnasium floor to congratulate their graduates and take commemorative photographs.
Members of the CHS junior class assisted with the graduation ceremony. Marshals for the evening were Makayla Kehmeier and Brieanna McGovern. Ushers were Sean Dale and Brian Hoerr. The sunflower was designated the class flower and the class colors selected were royal blue and charcoal gray. "Fast" by country singer Luke Bryan was chosen as the class song.