Steamboat Springs Mike Knezevich, Steamboat Springs High School assistant principal, said watching students smile as they received their diplomas was one of the greater moments of the graduation. "There's not a smile you can compare that to," he said.
The high school graduation Saturday gave students recognition for persevering through their years of schooling and confidence to begin a new phase of their lives.
"Every experience we went through has impacted us in some way. We're ready to jump obstacles no matter how high," graduating senior Mary Jarchow said. Graduation was both an exciting and sad time for seniors who are looking forward to the experiences ahead of them and at the same time thinking about all the friends they will have to leave behind.
"(Graduation) was sad at times because I figured I'm not going to see these people again," Tiffany McGinn said. She said she was relieved to graduate and looks forward to starting school at Abilene Christian College.
Maya Morena came all the way from Seattle to see her son, Raimundo, graduate. She said her son transferred to Steamboat to receive more individual attention than he could receive from a larger school in Seattle.
"The teachers were wonderful, they took him under their wing to make sure he stayed on task," Morena said.
She said it has been hard living in another state while her son has been in school. "He's had to be his own boss," she said.
Morena said she is extremely proud of her son. "Graduating from high school, that is a big deal," she said.
Teachers and administrators gave graduating seniors advice and things to consider as they enter the world.
"You can seek success or you can choose to seek significance," Dick McGinn said. He urged students to seek significance in their lives through relationships with people and not to live life with a self-centered focus. He encouraged students to follow their class motto: "Take the world as you find it, but leave it a better place."
Valedictorians Rodney Beall and Mary Helen Therese Hottenroth reminisced about times spent with fellow classmates and encouraged students to make the most of their lives.
"Now the universe is our playground and we have to learn to navigate in the stars," Beall said.
Beall said he wrote as one of his goals in eighth grade to be the valedictorian.
"It's amazing, absolutely amazing. I'm glad I kept my nerdiness for all these years," he said.
Beall was recognized for his outstanding abilities in academics and leadership. He plans to pursue medicine at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Beall attributes a lot of his success to his family and dedicated teachers.
"It's the start of something, something huge," Hottenroth said. "It's a pinnacle day, a day to remember to be yourself."
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