Take one sunny Saturday morning in late spring, add a dash of pomp and circumstance, plus a handful of well-aged platitudes, then sprinkle liberally over 250 or so green cap and gown-clad teenagers, and you have all the makings of a perfect Niwot High commencement ceremony.
Such was the scene on Saturday, May 25 as the Class of 2019 gathered together for a final time and marked the official end of their high school journeys.
“I want to congratulate you seniors on a triumphant conclusion to your childhood, and wish you all the best in the dawn of this next chapter of your life,” Principal Eric Rauschkolb said during his address. “Today is bittersweet to be sure, but in the words of Dr. Seuss, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’”
There were plenty of reasons for the Niwot Class of 2019 to smile during their final year as Cougars, including four state athletic championships, a rare homecoming win by the football team, and an “amazing prom” at Mile High Stadium in Denver. There was also the collective $14 million in scholarships earned by the graduates, which Rauschkolb said was the highest total ever.
Joining Rauschkolb on dais was the school’s International Baccalaureate Coordinator Elizabeth Towlen, as well as Karen Ragland and Paula Peairs, both doing double duty as parents of graduates and St. Vrain Valley school board members. Representing Niwot’s faculty was literacy teacher Cassandra Longo, who urged graduates during the Outstanding Educator’s address to, “create a life you show up for every day.”
“This is the day you step forward into your life….It belongs solely to you, and you will own all the consequences of your actions—all of the joy, all of the sorrow, and all of the consequences of the choices you never made…. Don’t create a life that forces you to live for Saturdays and Sundays, where you spend five days in tedium or dread, only to find relief in the weekends.”
The crowd also heard from Student Body President Savannah Parrot, who is headed to Rice University in the fall, as well as valedictorians Mary Yao (traditional) and Alan Yu (IB programme). Yao will be attending the University of Pennsylvania on a full-ride Navy ROTC scholarship and plans to study economics.
“I know the class of 2019 has been one of the most outstanding classes that Niwot High will ever have,” she said. “Not only is everyone here extremely talented, but driven and passionate about what they do. We’ve faced and conquered adversity and natural selection of the Tide Pod challenge and have come a such long way since that first day 1,374 days ago.”
Yu is planning to attend the University of Colorado-Boulder next year to study math, and, like his principal, he counseled his fellow students to look to the future but keep the lessons from high school close.
“Today we say our goodbyes and pull these memories closer. However, if we each take a look around us, there are just as many opportunities for hello....And so graduates, as we head off on our somewhat separate ways and continue to bring positive energy into other lives, we’ll always remember this place, and the amazing time we had here together.”