Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Hannah Zwak walks away from the stage at the Christian Heritage School in Steamboat Springs on Sunday afternoon. She was the school’s only senior this year and the focus of the 1 hour, 15 minute graduation ceremony.
Steamboat Springs Judging by the size of the crowd Sunday at Christian Heritage School, one would think the Class of 2010 had multiple seniors participating in a ceremony before taking the next step in their lives.
But it didn’t. Hannah Zwak was the lone member of the school’s Class of 2010.
There were some jokes about the tough competition for the title of this year’s valedictorian and how easy the presentation of diplomas would be. Zwak admitted that she enjoys being the center of attention but said that she also likes being able to step away from that center.
She couldn’t avoid it Sunday.
Zwak said the ceremony was awkward at times, as the crowd of more than 100 gazed up at her sitting on the stage. But overall, she said, the whole experience was humbling.
“I didn’t realize how much I reached people,” she said after the ceremony. “In my head, I thought I was cool. I didn’t know everyone else thought so, too.”
In a ceremony just about her, there was plenty of praise.
Christian Heritage Administrator Dave Entwistle congratulated Zwak on completing her education, which started 13 years ago at the school, when she was in kindergarten. Pastor Jake Hothem talked about Zwak’s zeal for her faith. Lucas Adams, the local chapter director for Young Life, mentioned Zwak’s compassion — in addition to describing her “crazy” and “wildly vibrant” wardrobe — and especially the love she has for her brother, Sam, and sister, Ellie.
Each member of the junior class shared a story or memory about their time at Christian Heritage with Zwak.
Ryan Hall described her as a “smart, courageous and determined” person who always stood up for him. David Robey said that despite being the only senior, Zwak always had a smile on her face and was ready to take on that day’s challenge. Kirsten Williams said Zwak was one of the first people she met at the school, and Zwak welcomed her into the Christian Heritage family. Andre Buccino called Zwak his “older sister” who always was there for him.
And junior Leah Berdine, before sharing a few memories of her own, read a poem she wrote.
“Backwards or forwards your name stays the same. Crazy or serious, you always make my day. No matter where you happen to be, our friendship will always matter to me.”
But sixth-grader Lilli Turton may have said it best. Lilli described the senior’s role at the school when she introduced Zwak, who she called “the greatest senior at CHS,” as the class valedictorian.
“When you are my age at CHS, you look up to all of the older kids and also the younger kids look up to you,” Lilli said. “Hannah has always been a great friend.”
The ceremony included Zwak’s friend Henry Howard performing on guitar his original song, “Fast Train.” A slideshow depicted Zwak through the years, from a baby with cake smeared all over her face to a teenager engaged in goofy poses with her friends.
She was presented with a couple of local scholarships. She received $1,000 from the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors and $1,500 from the Steamboat Springs Firemen’s Association. Those are in addition to the $5,000 annual scholarship she received from the University of Wyoming, the college she will attend in the fall to study psychology.
After the ceremony, Zwak said she was shocked and didn’t know what to say. But it didn’t take her long to find the words.
Zwak said she was honored that so many of the people she looks up to thought of her in the same light she thinks of them.