Red and white caps flew into the air over the Buena Vista High School football field as the stands erupted with jubilant applause, shouts and whistles.

The new graduates celebrated many years of hard work with confetti, streamers, colored smoke and even bubbles as they marched away together, clutching their diplomas. Phones and cameras came out for congratulatory photos and choir and band students danced the Macarena.

The COVID-conquered graduation ceremony on May 29 saw a crowd of family and friends filling the stands, sitting together for the first time in over a year to support the 53 seniors and their endeavors after navigating the district’s in-person, all-year learning.

“I’ve been asked many times the last several days how this year has gone. It’s been an incredible year. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I could not have asked for a better senior class for my first year here at Buena Vista High School,” said BVHS principal Jon Ail in showing his appreciation toward the graduating seniors.

Ail also extended gratitude to the school staff and the community for how everyone tackled the challenging year. “In all honesty, I can’t think of a better community I would have rather faced this year with,” he said. “We would not be here today if it wasn’t for all of you.”

Salutatorian Atlanta Hargrove and valedictorian Jacob Monreal each gave a speech they had prepared for everyone present. Hargrove listed the many lasts faced during their final year, both personal and relatable, and the many firsts facing the new graduates beyond high school.

“It’s hard not to think about the lasts on graduation day … but just keep in mind we have a lot of life left to live and there will be many more firsts and, quite frankly, many more lasts to come. Remember, no matter how far we go in life, our achievements can in a way be traced back to the supportive community that has surrounded us all these years. This leads me to thank all of the staff at BVHS, all of our family and friends here to support us today and everyone that has had an influence on our education and well-being over the years,” Hargrove said.

Following the ceremony, Hargrove added that she was glad to be able to leave home and had plans to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

Monreal opened with a quote from Abraham Lincoln – “Whatever you are, be a good one.” – before paraphrasing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in describing the seniors’ long journey through education.

“We might not remember every lesson that we learned or every paper that we wrote, but we remember the friendships we made, the lives that touched us and the people who supported us. It is for us, the graduating class of 2021, to represent our school and our community as we go forward toward our various pursuits,” he said.

He noted he and his classmates had endured building construction, deconstructions and a pandemic while negotiating high school.

Monreal ended with another quote from Lincoln, this time directed at the classes following theirs: “That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”

In general, the students felt great about officially completing high school.

“It’s weird because we spent 4 years here and now I’m finally leaving. But the feeling that I’ve left hasn’t hit me yet, so I’m definitely going to be feeling it later. I’m really excited, but also sad,” said Jordan Baxter. “It went really fast. I think everyone says that, but it went fast.”

For now, Baxter plans to look into graphic design experience outside of school.

Isaac Bearss has his sights set on a business management degree from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. “The community is very, very generous, and I wouldn’t have made it without my family and all my friends around me,” he said.

“I’m excited to finally be out of high school,” said Misty Burdges, who is considering University of Colorado-Colorado Springs either online or in person. “I’m going to miss the high school and all the people in it. I made a lot of great friends and met a lot of great people and had fun in the theatre department especially and cheerleading. I just met a lot of great people and have so many great memories.”

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