Steamboat Springs Yampa Valley High School students walked down a path at the Yampa River Botanic Park on Friday afternoon dressed in long black robes and mortarboards. This was a day they have dreamed of getting to since their first day of high school.
The students came from different backgrounds, they had faced different challenges and all had arrived at this place with different ambitions. But on this day, the class of 2014 shared one thing — success.
“What this day means to me … it is everything. It is everything,” Jessica Quarto-Walsh said. “I struggled. I didn’t think I was going to see today. It was very important that I made today and I’m really proud of myself, so is my family, which means a lot.”
Quarto-Walsh was one of seven students (there were eight in the class) that attended the graduation Friday afternoon on the grassy lawn at the Botanic Park.
The speakers included Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks, who made opening remarks, and Yampa Valley High School Principal Marty Lamansky, who made closing remarks.
Former longtime teacher Johnny Walker made the keynote address, and graduating seniors Quarto-Walsh and Teneka Worton also spoke.
Worton said she also didn’t think she was going to make it to graduation day this year after her father suffered a stroke last month.
“I was out for awhile and I didn’t think I was going to get all my work done,” Worton said. “Chuck, he pushed me forward and said, 'You can’t quit now.' For a minute, he was like, ‘Oh you should just come back next year,' but I refused.”
Worton said her hard head would not let her give in to the demands and take the easy way out. Instead, she buckled down and worked harder at the last minute to earn the right, like the other students in the class of 2014, to hold her diploma this day.
“He stepped up to the plate and helped me out a lot,” Worton said about lead teacher Chuck Rosemond. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Chuck.”
Graduating senior Zach LaSovage had more than one reason to smile Friday. Not only did he walk away with his high school diploma, but he also earned the “Hope for the Future” scholarship worth $1,000 from LIFT-UP of Routt County.
Laura Schmidt, the executive director at LIFT-UP, said the scholarships are new for the organization and are part of a mission in Routt County to help people reach economic self-sufficiency. This year, LIFT-UP awarded three scholarships to traditional high school students, one to the Yampa Valley High School and three more to adult students who are pursuing continuing education in our community.
LaSovage is hoping the money he earned will help as he continues his education at WyoTech, a school that provides repair and training in automotive technology, auto body, diesel, HVAC, chassis fabrication and high performance engine maintenance in Laramie, Wyoming. He plans on leaving for the school in September.
“It’s a struggle to get through school sometimes," LaSovage said. “It’s always good to keep moving forward and to keep continuing to persevere to be something. I guess it’s just a sign of happiness, joy, excitement for me and I’m stoked.”
Following Friday’s ceremony, the new graduates took time to hug their family members, get congratulations and gifts from friends and to look back on a high school journey that has been challenging and rewarding.
“I guess you never really know until you get there,” LaSovage said about graduation. “There were times when I might have thought that it wouldn’t happen, but it did and I’m really happy.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966