On Saturday, May 20, 2017, 30 Nederland High School students lifted their heads high, straightened their shoulders, took a deep breath and began the long march, the promenade, to the front of the NHS gym. “Kids” by MFMT accompanied their trek, which as they reached the last stretch to their seats turned into controlled mayhem.
Expressing their joy, the students high fixed, fist bumped, danced, jumped into each other’s arms, hugged like bears and held hands as they made their last hurrah down the aisle. This was an exuberant class, filled with high achieving students, athletes and performers who look forward to leaping into the larger world outside of Nederland.
The commencement began with the Loquations leading the crowd in our National Anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” as they have done so many times at sports events. NHS Head Boy Gabe Larrabee and Principal Carrie Yanter welcomed the parents and extended families of the graduates and thanked them for being flexible. She referred to the switching of times of the White Rose Ceremony, due to the almost three feet of snow that slowed Nederland down.
The White Rose Ceremony is an event in which seniors get the opportunity to hand out roses to those people who mentored them, nurtured them along the journey to graduation. It is usually a separate occasion on the Thursday night before graduation, giving the grads a chance to acknowledge what others have done for them.
All of the honorees were asked to stand at this point. At the end of the graduation ceremony, they received their flowers.
William Abbottlane gave flowers to Jan Abbott and Terry Moore; Megan Banich gave flowers to Scott Sanders and John Banich; Andrew Burnstein gave flowers to Matt Grigaitis and Dawn Foster; Trig Campbell gave flowers to Jacob Metzger and Scott Sanders; Hunter Chilcote gave flowers to Grandpa; Courtney Clemmer gave flowers to her mom Debra Beintiez and Liz Evans.
Emily Curcio gave flowers to her parents Tim and Mary and to Danielle Petrovic; Sabra Cutter gave flowers to Kate Bradley and Kathy Coooper; Mariah Ingram gave flowers to Simone Smead and Liz Evans; Ande Joyce Jolley gave flowers to Janice Joyce, John Leventhal and Andre Mallinger; Emily Kassera gave flowers to Al Real and Suzy Rippy; Gabe Larrabee gave flowers to Danielle Petrovic and Scott Geels.
Chloe Lindstrom gave flowers to Mark Mabbett and to her sisters, Lily and Bri Lindstrom; Kiernan McClish gave flowers to Matt Grigaitis and Al Real; Kevin Mertz gave flowers to Dawn Foster and Liz Evans; Wilhelm Nixon gave flowers to Kate Bradley and Scott Sanders; Keyghan Otten gave flowers to Shannon McGuire and George Otten and the Rippy Family;
Tyler Paul gave flowers to Dawn Foster and Al Real; Caleb Pugmire gave flowers to Jacob Metzger and Aaron Jones; Jaylan Randall gave flowers to Aaron Jones and Jacob Metzger; JJ Rippy gave flowers to Doug and Pat Gibney and the Rippy Family; Elenor Scott gave flowers to Christine Mallery and Jenni and Curt Halsted; Ken Shankey gave flowers to Jacob Metzger and Al Real; Ivie Silva gave flowers to Kate Bradley and Nicole Silva.
“Mother Nature played havoc with our plans,” said principal Yantzer and thanked the families for showing up.
Elenor Scott presented the graduation speech, saying the last couple of weeks have been complicated and stressful, with tests and college applications. She told her classmates she would miss them and the school activities.
“I am stepping out of my comfort zone, but I have gained confidence. We are a small school, the size of most college libraries. Everyone here is brilliant in their own way; they are open-minded and individual, raised to respect each other and do the best they can. When I was beginning school, I had to decide between going here or to Gilpin. I loved being here. Thank you.”
At each graduation ceremony, special awards are given to seniors
Voted on by teachers and staff, the Senior Who Makes a Difference Award, who has a positive influence and always helps others; an athlete and a National Honors Society Student, was presented to Kiernan McClish.
The Friend of Nederland Award, which is presented to someone in the community who helps make the school a better place, was presented to Sheila Kassera, known for her humble hard work in raising money for the school.
Kevin Merz presented his speech, “Leaves in the Wind,” which he said had only a vague theme and mostly a lack of a plan. He said roads to any goal are not a straight lines. Nederland allowed us to grow and develop; it is the tree from which we depart.
“High school was a mess,” he said. “It was not perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way because the world beyond is a bigger mess. Life is not straight forward so don’t restrict yourself to a normal life. The ones who want to change the world usually do. Do your best to do the stuff you want to avoid; set your goals high and enjoy life.”
Musical pieces were performed by the orchestra and band and a trio of Mariah Ingram, Emily Curcio and Chloe Lindstrom.
Tammy Forrest, a Nederland Elementary School teacher who has likely had many of the seniors in her class gave the commencement speech. She said her students always liked it when she told a story, so that’s what she did.
She recounted graduating from college with the intent of going on an adventure, which included a trip to Colorado, to Boulder specifically. She grabbed a bus from DIA and when a man sat next to her and told her he just got out of a psych ward in New York, she wondered what she was doing there. The landscape was flat and brown.
When she arrived in Boulder and saw the mountains and walked the length of Pearl Street, she realized that she was beginning the story of her life and that she was writing it herself.
“And that’s where you are,” she told the graduates. “You come from an interesting place filled with characters and you will build on those things. Write the rest of your story and make it a good one.”
Principal Carrie Yantzer presented the graduates, saying, “Today is the beginning of many accomplishments. Reach for new heights, rise above it all and when you get to that point, enjoy the view.” She gave them each a luggage tag and told them to remember their roots.
The graduates moved their tassels from one side to the other and then tossed their hats into the air. They lined up to receive congratulations and hugs and eat some cake. Parents chatted with each other most of them with a rather dazed look on their face as if wondering how they had ever reached this point. Most of them proud, happy and never far from a box of tissues as 18 years of raising a child passed before their eyes.