Barbara Lawlor, Nederland
The Class of 2014 did it their way.
The 39 students who graduated from Nederland Middle Senior High School on Saturday were all strong-willed, creative, impulsive, curious, demanding, intelligent, stubborn—and many of them marched to the sound of a different drummer.
They looked to the horizon and saw challenges they yearned to meet, races they wanted to run, and stages they wanted to star on. They were sweet and funny and loyal to each other and their families and their community.
On Saturday, May 24, the Class of 2014 received their diplomas, their tickets to whatever journey they choose to take. As usual, the ceremony was a laughing-through-tears occasion. How can one not be happy for their accomplishments? How can one not be sad to see them go?
As the gym filled, the NMSHS band kept the mood upbeat. When all the guest sat and quieted, the Loquations sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Eight of the singers were seniors and two of three males in the choir were seniors—a large hole to be filled next year.
Liam Timkin was the first senior speaker. He jokingly said he had been thinking about getting a standing ovation just for making it to that point. He said he felt relief, that they were all right there. “We should be happy for the moments we shared. When we look back on this time we will appreciate it and share stories. But mostly, looking back, all I can say is, we nailed it!”
A mighty roar from his classmates clamored agreement.
During the presentation of awards, resident woodworker, transportation administrator, and former school bus driver Bill Allen was presented the Friends to NMSHS Award for his dedication and effort to return the woodworking shop to the school.
Assistant Principal Greg Guevara presented the Jerry Buck Scholarship to Jake Aquilar. “He is not afraid to try something new. He is athlete with good grades, coachable, and always has a desire to improve.”
The Senior Who Makes a Difference Award was presented to Natalie Waddell. She is sincere, intelligent, has organized events, raised money, has academic strength and wit and the ability to let tense moments bring people together. “She is a combination of Snow White, Einstein, and Martha Stewart, and will make the world a better place.”
Senior speaker Angie Ritt described the 2014 students as Rams, Eagles, and Oranges. She said this body of students broke tradition and made their own. “These people will forever be friends and classmates and we will always be seniors of Nederland forever.”
“It’s about bloody time,” shouted Zoey Payne Grauch as she took the podium. “We are all going to do something incredibly brilliant. and make an incredible impact on the world….Our bonds will never die and we will always remember what we have done here together. We will always be Nederland Panthers.”
The Commencement Address was given by Timmy Duggan, the National Ski Racer turned Olympic Bicycle Racer. Duggan retired a few months ago from racing. He told the students that he skied at Eldora and met his wife and many friends while on the ski team.
He said he retired from racing because it was time to change his goals. “Life is not a straight line,” he said. He also told the students that they are way better than they thought they were.
“At the moment you want to give up, everything changes, good things happen. When I was on the brink of giving up, I was named to the Olympic team. The price of passion is you don ‘t give up.”
Duggan explained that he did what he needed to and then he was ready to move on. He told them to “take risks, get out of [their] comfort zone, create a path, set a path and don’t give up.”
Duggan received a long ovation. Principal Lynn Donnelly said he should be the commencement speaker many more times.
After the speeches, after the heart-rending songs sung by members of the Loquations, AP Greg Guevara presented Donnelly with a massive bouquet of flowers and thanked her for her years with NMSHS. Donnelly has announced her retirement.
Guevara said “You led us for four years with confidence and grace and tireless work.”
The seniors then switched their tassels, received their diplomas, threw their caps into the air and sat down to watch the slide show, prepared by Ian Hastings and Jenna Mahon.
And then it was all over except for the cake and the parties and feeling of moving forward while wanting to hold on to the precious present for just a little bit longer.