Friends and family of Mancos High School’s 30-student graduation class converged on the campus football field for a sunny send-off Sunday afternoon.
The ceremony took place after a year in which the district’s schools remained open and managed to get through the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. The rural high school’s student speakers imparted a message of open-mindedness and empathy to those in attendance.
After the national anthem, a moment of silence was held for Callum Hays, the 17-year old Mancos student who died last summer.
Mancos Secondary Schools Principal John Marchino started the ceremony by discussing the challenges students faced during the school year, as well as their accomplishments.
“We got through this year and were able to weather his pandemic,” Marchino said. “And not just make it to the end, but thrive in the process. This class that sits before you has persevered and excelled while enduring the challenges imposed on all of us.”
According to Marchino, 15 seniors earned a total of 320 college credits while in high school, and 24 were accepted into a college or a university.
The class of 2021 earned over $560,000 in scholarships.
Four students will be joining the military.
“Although we’re proud of your accomplishments in high school, we will be even more proud when you go out into this world and show empathy to your fellow persons and exhibit kindness to everyone all time,” Marchino said.
Science teacher Sensa Walcott spoke to graduates about the importance of teamwork and how her students have shaped her.
“Growth is an intricate and beautiful and messy process, and as I sat down and thought about it, as much as I came into my classroom hoping to have a positive impact on you, I realized that each of you has also had an impact on me and who I’ve become.” Walcott said. “Life is truly a team sport.”
Empathy turned out to be a key theme in Sunday’s proceedings.
Class salutatorian Kylie Guiles was the first student to speak.
“Mancos is the place we call home. It is where our roots were planted,” Guiles said. “This town will always be home, but there is more to the world than what is here.”
She encouraged her fellow graduates to be open-minded and to listen to those with different ways of looking at the world.
“As we go through life, I hope we will gain an understanding of other world views,” Guiles said. “While we may not agree, we can learn to respect them. It is up to us to make the courageous choice to be kind. Find the kindness within, and radiate that kindness to those around you.”
Class valedictorian Grace Manning was next up to the podium.
Manning will be attending Colorado College in the fall. She intends to study molecular biology and become an epidemiologist.
She started off by thanking teachers and staff for their efforts over the years.
“They have somehow managed to turn us graduates into a respectable crowd of young adults,” Manning said.
Manning then discussed the sacrifices she made in her efforts to excel and become valedictorian. She devoted nearly all of her time to academics, athletics and work.
Manning became a full-time student at Fort Lewis College during her senior year.
“Simply put, I didn’t want to just achieve,” Manning said. “I wanted to overachieve.”
While she was fulfilled briefly after learning that she would be class valedictorian, she began to reflect on the importance of relationships in her life.
“I looked back at my years in high school, and I realized something. I had sacrificed time with family and friends in the pursuit of success. And now that I had succeeded, I was saddened at the lost time with my favorite people. It isn’t that my family wasn’t a priority, I just forgot that they were.”
She emphasized that graduates will need to find balance in their day-to-day lives, a lesson she was glad to learn early.
“No matter how busy your life gets, try your best to stay connected with the people you care about. Because I personally believe that success is futile when you have nobody to celebrate it with,” sh said.
Superintendent Brian Hanson told The Journal after the ceremony that it felt like it was the right time to end his time with the district to spend time with family.
“I am ready to move on,” Hanson said. “It’s been 35 years. Loved every minute of it. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be superintendent here for 13 years.”