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Cortez graduates challenged to ‘be radical’

The top two students in the Montezuma-Cortez High School Class of 2017 helped their peers celebrate graduation in style during commencement Thursday at Panther Stadium.

Valedictorian Madison Mahaffey and salutatorian Cortney Cashner gave a rhyming speech together onstage.

“The world belongs to us to ruin or to fix, so let’s pull out all the tricks,” Mahaffey said.

The 131 graduating seniors walked across the stage to get their diplomas on Thursday as a crowd of hundreds watched. Graduates wrote messages on their graduation caps, including “The Story Goes On” and “Finally.”

Receiving special recognition were 22 graduates who earned honors diplomas by maintaining a GPA of 3.2 or higher and excelling in three academic areas. Class of 2017 officers also recognized about a dozen Re-1 staff members who are retiring.

The students selected M-CHS English teacher Joe Konik as the guest speaker for commencement. He offered four key “nuggets” of advice for the graduates: Do no harm, engage critically, combat injustice and question everything.

Though Konik said he was honored to celebrate the day with graduates, his speech wasn’t sugar-coated. He told the students they would face tough challenges in their next stages of life.

“You will almost definitely be subject to injustice, so anticipate this,” he told the graduates. “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

Principal Jason Wayman shared memories about many of the graduates.

“Today is about these fine young men and women,” Wayman said.

Re-1 District Superintendent Lori Haukeness said it was a privilege to be with the students not only as superintendent but also as a former graduate of M-CHS. She praised the students for their hard work and perseverance.

She said many of the people who helped the students get where they are were in the audience to celebrate with them. She told students to remember their roots and their families as they moved on in life.

Haukeness said she hoped students kept their sense of adventure and wonder. She also said she hoped some would come back and become teachers.

“Education is your path to a successful future,” Haukeness said. “You’re entitled to the best life has to offer.”

Konik challenged the graduates to be a part of something as they moved forward, but also to be critical and offer solutions to problems. He said they should expect resistance and adversity. He asked that graduates create systems that value inclusion and empathy.

Konik admitted that he had “no clue” about many things, but he said he hoped the graduates listened to his words and he wished them the best.

“I wish you nothing less than clarity among the fog,” Konik said. “M-CHS grads of 2017, be radical. To change everything, start anywhere.”


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