At Sunday’s Mancos High School graduation ceremony, two dozen graduates were told to always remember the small Colorado town where they went to school as they go off into the world.
Many of the members of the school’s class of 2016 took college courses, and two are going on to serve in the military, Principal Adam Priestley said. The seniors earned $500,000 in scholarship funds between them, he said.
“We believe in you and are proud of your accomplishments,” Priestley said Sunday. “Learn a lot and visit us often.”
Graduates heard from Priestley, as well as Valedictorian Vincent Grego, Salutatorian Ro Paschal and Superintendent Brian Hanson. A video presentation featuring graduates’ favorite memories and plans for the future also was shown during the ceremony, which took place at the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Hanson delivered his keynote address like a motivational speaker, with no notes, a headset microphone and props. He didn’t stand behind a podium, instead walking back and forth on and off the stage, speaking directly to the graduates.
Hanson challenged the graduates not to change and to make an impact.
“We should make a difference every day,” he said.
The superintendent provided every graduate with a note card and envelope. He told each graduate to write on the note card how they want to be remembered when they retire. The graduates sealed the cards in the envelopes, and Hanson told them to open them when they retire.
Hanson closed his speech with a quote from John Wayne about the importance of tomorrow. He recited another anonymous quote, telling graduates before you quit something, pause and remember why you started.
Hanson told graduates never to forget that Mancos is their family.
“Set the world on fire and show everyone what it means to be a Mancos Blue Jay,” he said.
Paschal won a 2A track and field state championship in the 4x800 meter relay race just days before the ceremony, along with fellow senior Adrian Hernandez and teammates Jake McKie and Simon Kearns. In his speech, Paschal spoke about his experience winning a championship and setting a school record in the race, for which he ran the final leg. He talked about memories from the class’s elementary and middle school days and the many activities and opportunities in which they participated.
Paschal said he hoped graduates would take with them the sense of community that Mancos has.
“Try to take a little bit of Mancos with you wherever you go,” he said. “Let us be inspired by the caring and nurturing community we’ve been a part of and carry that on.”
Valedictorian Vincent Grego donned a pair of graduation cap-shaped sunglasses before starting his speech. He acknowledged his classmates for their ability to work as a team. That connectedness and communication skill will be helpful as they go on, Grego said.
The valedictorian offered advice and optimism to his fellow graduates.
“Go out and strive for your dream,” Grego said. “Strive for what brings you joy.”
Hanson presented graduates with their diplomas and Priestley turned their tassels. They shook hands with school board members and some embraced Priestley, Hanson and elementary principal Cathy Epps.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the grads tossed their caps into the air, many of which were customized with personal messages.
The graduates are: Nicolas Archuleta, Uriah Cooper, Anna Cox, Raenyssa Elam, Davelon Filfred, Taryn Gordanier, Vincent Grego, Jessica Gutierrez, Cade Hays, Dakoda Heath, Adrian Hernandez, Bryce Hobbs, Austin Howerton, Asa Kearns, Joseph Knezek, Andrew Morgan, Annalisa Mykytiuk, Ro Paschal, Andrew Plunkett, Everett Strazza-Whalen, Celeste Velasquez, Hanna Wallace, Alexandria Widen and Ellio Williams.