Gaven Van Pelt receives his diploma from Yampa Valley High School counselor Molly Lotz during graduation Friday at Yampa River Botanic Park. The alternative high school graduated five seniors this year.

Photo by Nicole Inglis

Gaven Van Pelt receives his diploma from Yampa Valley High School counselor Molly Lotz during graduation Friday at Yampa River Botanic Park. The alternative high school graduated five seniors this year.

5 graduate from Yampa Valley High School

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— The five graduates in Yampa Valley High School’s Class of 2012 sat in the sunny and serene Yampa River Botanic Park on Friday afternoon as they listened to their mentor and teacher Sarah Peed offer words of advice and encouragement, with an emphasis on the courage.

In her address, Peed recalled the exhilarating adventure of a whitewater rafting trip the students took last summer.

“Each time we would approach a set of rapids, there was a brief moment of panic, followed by exhilaration midway through ... and finally a great sense of accomplishment,” Peed said.

She compared that experience to those of the sometimes chaotic journey of high school, from school work to personal life and the choices each student faced.

“It’s courage that motivates us and pushes us forward,” she said. “Remember how much courage you’ve already shown and use that to give you confidence going forward.”

Yampa Valley High School, an alternative school operated by the Steamboat Springs School District, celebrated the graduations of Cameron Lichnovsky, Tamika Morris, Nick Ovard, Sarah Schwebke and Gaven Van Pelt.

The students chose Van Pelt to give the student address, which he did in a sincere and informal manner, clad in sunglasses and smiling from ear to ear. He said Yampa Valley High School is a special place.

“Just all the opportunities this place has given us and everybody just pushing themselves to all their limits,” he said. “I love every single one of these students, and they can all go on and do anything they want.”

The 40-minute ceremony featured brief talks from Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks and Yampa Valley High School teachers Dan Juba and Kirsten Brendtro.

After the ceremony, the graduates mingled among the crowd of about 50, holding bright gold sunflowers in their hands and hugging friends and family members. While they posed for a photograph, they flung their graduation caps high into the air.

Schwebke, who plans to study business at Colorado Mountain College in the fall, said the feeling of receiving her diploma was a little nerve-wracking — probably much like navigating whitewater rapids. But like the rapids, a sense of accomplishment quickly set in.

“It’s the best feeling ever,” Schwebke said. “It feels like I’m floating on clouds. It’s a little sad, but exciting at the same time.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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