‘Don’t stop believing in yourself’

Jun 17, 2021 | Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

The Mountain High School graduation ceremony began with Principal Dave Nygren thanking the students’ families for being there “when they needed you.

“I can guarantee they are ready to step forward and begin their adult lives.”

Nygren told the students that they are “a class that will be remembered forever. Most of you don’t like school but you have realized you are intelligent. You have overcome difficulties to get your diplomas today,” he said as he got choked up.

Several of the 22 graduates “really turned it on the last week” in order to achieve the credits necessary for graduation, Nygren said with pride in his voice.

He challenged the students to remember several things: “When life gets hard – and it’s guaranteed to do so – it will knock you down. Pick yourself up. Don’t stop believing in yourself because you can do it. Never settle for mediocrity.”

Nygren urged the graduates to be different. “Immerse yourself in something you’re passionate about. And, no matter where you go, always remember to be proud of where you came from.

“We have an amazing community that embraced you. Go on and do great things. Make a noise so loud, we can hear it from the mountaintop.”

While Mountain High does not traditionally have a valedictorian, the staff chose Jesse Frakes, who had the highest GPA in the class, to give the student address.

“We faced many challenges this year: our alarm clocks, COVID,” Jesse told his classmates. “Who would have thought we would spend our senior year behind a Chromebook and masks. We didn’t have a clear path before COVID but, after, we could see everyone was ready to take their lives into their own hands.”

Addressing the teachers – Scott Whiteside, Ryan Stuehrmann and Susan Williams – Jesse said that “your dedication to student success made an impact. You inspired many of us to graduate.

“We did it,” Jesse said to the other graduates. “The lessons we learned here will stick with us.”

Part of the Mountain High celebration is the awarding of scholarships. “The students don’t know they’re getting them,” Nygren told the families, adding the recipients are chosen by the staff.

He first called forward Jose Alvarado, who received a certificate for having satisfied the requirements to be English proficient. As Jose turned to leave the stage, Nygren called him back and awarded him a scholarship for being trustworthy and honorable.

Zakery Hallquist received a scholarship for service above self. An art and music scholarship went to Alice McDonald.

Saying “you inspired us,” Nygren gave a scholarship for being inspirational to Chase Clark. Alexander Peterson received the leadership scholarship for having helped with the school site council and Don Vicario was awarded the scholarship for perseverance.

The last two scholarships awarded include checks that will be sent directly to the schools the recipients attend. Carlos Zetino Hernandez received the Jim Manson scholarship from the Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club and Jesse Frakes also received a Rotary scholarship for “embracing the 4-Way Test.”

The students were then called to the stage one by one to receive their diplomas. While most walked sedately up the ramp, Cherish Serna skipped up to the stage. And, after being handed his diploma, Joseph Grant ran up into the bleachers to show his mother what he had achieved.

During the reading of the names of the graduates, there was a lot of cheering, whistling and horns blowing. The families were anxious to show their pride in their students.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Nygren added one last thought for the families: “Thank you for being part of your child’s life.”

The Alpine Mountaineer congratulates all the members of the Mountain High Class of 2021 and wishes them the best of luck in their future endeavors.



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