Steamboat Springs Mesa Thankful said that four years ago, he never would have imagined himself giving a speech as the representative of his high school’s graduating class.
On a picturesque day at the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs on Friday, Thankful was introduced as a student who entered Yampa Valley High School as a freshman who did not like school. His plan was to be a snowboarder his whole life.
“We seek out students that really just don’t fit the mold,” teacher Chuck Rosemond said to the crowd.
Thankful was one of those students, and he grew up a lot during the four years he attended the school, which celebrated Thankful as its first four-year graduate.
“I’m here today because Yampa Valley High School worked for me,” said Thankful, who added that the school was like a family with a nurturing learning environment.
In addition to receiving a high school diploma, Thankful has been taking classes at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, and he is well on his way to earning an associate degree.
Thankful said his life would be a lot different had he chosen to ignore the advice offered by Dan Juba, who has been a teacher at the school since its inception. In the past five years, Juba has seen the school grow from 14 to 28 students. This year, the school graduated a record eight seniors. But this will be the final graduation ceremony Juba will attend as a teacher at the alternative school. He has taken a job as a teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, but Juba said he always will remember his time at the alternative school.
“This is a school I really love. You guys know that, right?” Juba said to the students.
Juba’s parting advice to the students reflected on his own experiences back home in Minnesota. He recalled a story about when he was living at home and sitting on the kitchen counter while his mom was doing dishes. Juba said he most likely was telling his mom about some plan to make fast cash and how that would allow him to be the man he thought he should be.
“She said, ‘There is always going to be something, don’t you know,’” Juba said his mom told him.
Juba interpreted that as meaning there always is going to be a challenge in life to overcome but said his mom offered no advice for how to overcome it.
“You’re adults now,” Juba told the students. “You’re graduating high school. You’re smart enough that you’re going to figure it out.”
Juba told the students not to worry about the life they should be living but to live their own lives.
“Welcome to the adult world,” he said.
Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks also spoke at the ceremony and offered some advice.
“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere,” he said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com