The Dolores High School Class of 2017 was half the size of last year’s graduating class, but the seniors who received diplomas Saturday didn’t let that diminish their sense of accomplishment.
Family and friends crowded into the high school gym in the morning to celebrate 25 students who graduated this year. The crowd wasn’t enough to fill all the seats, but they made plenty of noise, cheering loudly for each senior and speaker. The keynote speaker, longtime science teacher Dave Hopcia, and the three students who spoke at the ceremony focused on the friendships and memories they’d made in high school, and their pride in the town of Dolores.
In his speech, Hopcia drew attention to the school’s history, noting that the earliest picture he had of a Dolores graduating class was from 100 years ago. He told the graduates to cherish their memories of the place and never forget their roots. But he also advised them to remember to always do the right thing, even in tough circumstances. “You are free to choose,” he said. “But you are not free from the consequences of your choices.”
Bailey Boyd, the valedictorian, used a Rubik’s cube in her speech to represent the challenges of high school. She said both the freshman and senior years of school were puzzling times of change and reorganization, but that family and friends had helped her and her fellow classmates to make sense of it all.
“Maybe, just for today, we can say that our cubes are solved,” she said.
She encouraged the other graduates to have pride in coming from “the best valley town on the whole planet Earth,” even as many of them prepare to leave for college in other states.
Salutatorian Abigail Malarchick and class president Tristan Holgate also gave speeches celebrating their school and town, and every graduate got a chance to say a few words in the form of “graduation statements” they had prepared in advance to be read as they took their diplomas. Some chose to use quotes from Dr. Seuss or the Bible, while others simply thanked their teachers and families for helping them along the way. Cheers (accompanied in a few cases by the clamor of vuvuzelas) erupted from the crowd as each student received a diploma.
The ceremony also allowed some of the graduates to show off their skills. While Boyd used her Rubik’s cube solving ability to aid her speech, Holgate played the national anthem on his French horn to start the event, and classmate Bailee Karo put together a slide show that showed each graduate growing up. Most of them plan to go on to college, although a few will join the workforce or military this year.
Each student left, not only with a diploma, but also a piece of parchment paper with notes to them from all their teachers. Hopcia and other members of the school staff, including principal Jenifer Hufman, wished them well in the coming years.
“You are now Dolores graduates, and no one can ever take that away from you,” Hopcia said.
The 2017 graduating class of Dolores High School includes: Madison Archuleta, Guiseppe Arreaga, Lillian Auclair, Josie Bernholtz, Kayleen Bowie, Bailey Boyd, Julio Carrasco, Keegan Elliott, Alyana Frasier, Tristan Holgate, Aiden Hopcia, Ashley Hurst, Alexander Hutton, Bailee Karo, Allyssa Ludington, Abigail Malarchick, Ashley Matthews, Tristan Medina, Tyler Nance, Abigail Paxton, Akiesha Quintana, Jacey Sippel, Harlie Valdez-Harrison, Brandon Ward and Kale Willbanks.