On the evening of May 31, the 93 graduating seniors of Grand County High School’s class of 2018 passed through the “G” and on to the next phase of their lives. The graduates were given words of encouragement and advice from their peers and faculty members, former and current.
After Boy Scout Troop No. 316 presented the flag and lead the Pledge of Allegiance, the graduates marched to the stage adorned in red and white gowns and mortarboards to the rousing tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The commencement ceremony began with a brief welcome address from Brooklin Hugentobler, student body president. She thanked her classmates for their unity and friendship, reminding them of their class motto, “Together we are Grand.”
The annual “Circle of Honor” award was presented to former GCHS math teacher Ed Defrancia in recognition of his dedication to student learning and achievement. He acted as head of the math department for the district, teaching everything from remedial math to calculus.
Defrancia was also involved in extracurricular activities, taking on diverse roles ranging from being a sponsor of the Honor Society to coaching both soccer and tennis, chaperoning trips to Costa Rica, and taking students to engineering and math competitions. Defrancia kept his acceptance speech short, further emphasizing his guiding philosophy as a teacher that “students come first.”
The graduating class had two co-valedictorians, Grace Osusky and Tyler Moreau.
Osusky gave an unconventional address, starting with a disclaimer that this would not be “your typical speech” before launching into a passionate performance of a spoken word poem. Osusky gave a quick summary of the trials and tribulations she and her classmates went through to reach the graduation ceremony. From playing four-square in elementary school through the awkwardness of middle school to the stress and responsibilities of high school, Osusky pointed out how each event was essential in making them who they are today.
Using clever rhymes, Osusky delivered the relevant message, “now we can share our voice in a world so torn by corruption, destruction. It’s not a hard deduction when we say our future is ours.” She placed lofty expectations on her classmates, saying, “we must be willing to stand up for what is morally right, morally just. We must not give in to hatred or xenophobia.
“My fellow students,” she said, “if you take one thing away, live the life you want. One that will not haunt you in the years to come, taunt you with the steady beat of a lingering drum, because you felt too shy, too weak, too insecure to do what you felt was right.” Her last line was an inspiring call to action: “Don’t wait for tomorrow to jumpstart your life. Be dauntless, be bold, and do it tonight.”
Moreau, who along with Osusky managed to maintain a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout high school, was next to speak. He deftly balanced humor and heartfelt sentiments, resulting in an engaging and touching address.
Moreau advised his classmates to express their individuality and chase their passions. “Somewhere in all of us we have… what makes us believe we’re unique. Tonight, I want to encourage all of us to follow what makes us believe that, because if you follow that you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.” He balanced that sentiment with his other piece of advice, urging caution in a world where many things are recorded and where a person’s actions define them. “The world never forgets now, and you have to watch yourself because we’re all going out into a dog-eat-dog world where people take any advantage they can get. Always be nice.”
Moreau quoted a teacher’s definition of his class. “We rarely care about anything, but when we do care about something, we care about it to the point where it’s extremely annoying.” Taking that statement as a point of pride, Moreau triumphantly concluded, “Here’s to the class of 2018 going out into the world and caring so much that it’s annoying.”
Though the valedictorians were a tough act to follow, commencement speaker and current English teacher Joshua Cameron took the microphone. Cameron turned from the audience to address the graduates directly. He caught everyone’s attention by starting with a quick rap and then asked, “Are you ready to be entertained? Are you ready to be transformed?” Cameron’s questions were met with uproarious applause from students and parents alike.
The main thrust of Cameron’s address came when he brought up the concept of the romantic hero from classic literature, one oft-discussed in his classes. He reminded the students that a romantic hero is “an underdog… reaching for something that their society tells them they can’t have.” He compared this idea to the class of 2018, one that “is known as an underachieving one...You guys don’t have the greatest GPAs or the best ACT scores, but those things don’t define you. It’s the creativity, the passion, the love that I saw play out in my classroom. That’s the stuff that keeps me coming back to this building day after day.”
Cameron quoted the author Henry David Thoreau saying, “The great mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Far from being pessimistic, Cameron told the graduates they can rise above such a fate by making a conscious effort to make the right choices. His last line was both a summary and a resonant piece of advice: “Go out there, live your life deliberately, your beautiful life, be your own romantic hero.”