Seniors take graduation to new heights

Valedictorian Will Perez and Salutatorian Max Garcia reached for the sky Saturday, June 6, as they gave their speeches from atop a scissor lift. Photo courtesy of Vibrant Valley

DEL NORTE- Saturday morning dawned with rain clouds forming over the San Juan Mountain range and a cool breeze ruffled the newly sprouted leaves on trees throughout the quiet community of Del Norte. This year’s 2020 Seniors with the Upper Rio Grande School District prepared for their graduation ceremony in front of the new school eager to celebrate their many accomplishments.

Rock and roll from the mid-80s to the early 90s made up the background of the virtual ceremony that was playing live for family and friends across the United States as the senior class of 2020 were seated in front of the main entrance to the school. Seniors were able to invite a small crowd of family and friends to watch the ceremony from their vehicles but the rest of the public was asked to attend through a livestream on Vimeo.

Pomp and Circumstance played through the loud speakers as seniors made their way through the parking lot, past the vehicles of family and friends who honked and cheered from inside their cars and to their respective seats that were positioned 6 feet apart and remained a stark reminder era the Class of 2020 was graduating in.

Though the circumstances of the ceremony had slightly changed, the enormous pride and accomplishment felt by all those who attended did not. Joy emanated through the screen to those watching from home to the seniors. Thirty-two students graduated high school Saturday and all 32 showed their unwavering happiness for their long-awaited graduation ceremony throughout the entire event.

After stepping onto a high-rise scissor jack, newly promoted High School Principal Aaron Horrocks spoke to the attending crowd, thanking them for attending and also to the school students and staff that worked to make a graduation ceremony possible for this year’s seniors.

Horrocks continued his speak by announcing the class speakers, “It is traditional in graduation ceremonies to honor those students who achieved the highest-grade point averages over the course of four years with the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Both of these young men not only excelled academically, but also as leaders of service and character. At this time, I would like to introduce our Class of 2020 Valedictorian Will Perez and following his speech, the Class of 2020 Salutatorian Max Garcia.”

Perez took to the sky to speak to his fellow students from about 10 feet in the air and began by acknowledging his classmates as his community, having known most of them his entire life. “As we approached graduation, I began reliving my memories of growing up in Del Norte. Memories that have defined who I am today, and which will surely shape me in the future. I know that my class has impacted me and I them. One thing that I believe is that belonging to a community is vital.”

Perez continued by stating that communities are what define people and good or bad, serve an integral part of shaping an individual. “In the past few months, my classmates and I have been experiencing the bad parts together and it’s a tragedy that our last few months of high school were muddled by this recent pandemic. But not one individual is experiencing this pandemic alone. We all shared in it together.”

Salutatorian Max Garcia took to the sky and spoke to his classmates, parents, teachers and staff. “First things first, I would like to thank all of the people who have helped us along the way. Our parents, grandparents, friends and family. All the late nights, endless love and support and not to forget the homemade meals. I am going to miss those. We could not have done it without you guys.”

Garcia spoke about his school and teachers stating that he had yet to find anyone as patient as teachers. “No one can learn for us, so we had to take it into our own hands. They gave us the tools to succeed, now let us utilize them to be the best we can be. To my fellow classmates, let us all agree that this year has been a rollercoaster. They say your senior year flies, but I did not realize it would Zoom.”

Garcia closed by acknowledging the strength of the Class of 2020 and stated that everything they face in life will only make them stronger. Congratulations Del Norte Class of 2020!


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