The Montezuma-Cortez High School commencement ceremony on Thursday night marked the end of the Class of 2016’s high school career, but it’s just the beginning for the graduates, said Susan Wisenbaker, the event’s guest speaker.
Wisenbaker teaches math at M-CHS and was selected by the students to speak at the ceremony. She said she had watched the senior class develop “exponentially” over the past four years.
“This growth will continue to skyrocket,” Wisenbaker said. “There is nothing these students can’t do.”
Spectators spilled out onto the lawn of Panther Stadium on a mild, sunny spring evening for the ceremony. M-CHS Principal Jason Wayman shared personal memories involving dozens of students.
Wayman urged students to carry with them the special memories they made attending M-CHS. Those keepsakes can help you build for the future, he said. He thanked the seniors for four memorable years.
“Thank you for the fun times and the good memories,” Wayman said. “Go rock your future.”
This year’s senior class has more members who are enlisting in the U.S. military than any other M-CHS class, Wayman said.
Salutatorian Rachel Zetts is one of them. In August, she will leave for San Antonio, Texas, to enlist in the U.S. Air Force’s cybersecurity program.
In her speech, she focused on “lasts” — the last school dance, the last sports games, the last day of classes. But she said now is the time to move forward and create new “firsts,” such as their first day leaving home and their first day attending college classes.
Zetts challenged her fellow classmates not to focus on their individual needs, but rather to be selfless.
“We can aim to mend society’s flaws as we go forward,” she said. “Let’s strive to put others before us and move the focus off of ourselves and to others in need.”
Longtime family friends Joe and Diane Carabetta flew in from Maryland for Zetts’ big moment. After her speech, Joe Carabetta, who had weaved through the standing room-only crowd for a closer view, returned to his wife, Zetts’ mother Lucita and Zetts’ friend Kayla Garcher, and a Journal editor and announced, “She did good.”
Valedictorian Laurel Chappell ended her high school career with a 4.1 grade point average and took five college courses during school, Wayman said.
In her speech Thursday, Chappell said that although her generation is sometimes characterized as lazy and entitled, each of her classmates managed to defy those labels. The seniors achieved success in sports, music and academics, she said.
“We have all managed to succeed despite the negativity that sometimes surrounds us,” Chappell said.
The student government reached out to the community and award-winning journalism team kept students informed, Chappell said. She said the students couldn’t have done those things without support from parents and teachers. She said she hoped that level of pride and involvement in the school would continue.
“I would like to change the reputation of our generation,” Chappell said. “That has already started taking place.”
Although Chappell’s speech focused on overcoming generational stereotypes, she ended with a bona fide millennial move — she pulled out her phone and took a selfie from the stage.
“Thank you for the memories and the friends,” Chappell said. “It’s time for bigger things.”
The top 20 seniors with highest grade point averages were recognized at the ceremony. All had GPAs of 3.6 or above, Wayman said.
The new Montezuma-Cortez High School building also was given a moment in the sun. Speaker Wisenbaker noted that the Class of 2016 is the first to graduate from the new building. It’s not just a building, she said. The high-tech facility has changed students’ attitudes toward education and the community.
“The new building is a tangible example of your dedication to the kids,” Wisenbaker told the crowd.
Wisenbaker said she loves the graduation ceremony because it’s what all the seniors have been growing and working toward. She said she loved this year’s group of seniors and insisted that they would make Cortez proud.
“We will miss you,” Wisenbaker said. “Come back and let us know how that skyrocketing future is going.”