(Editor’s Note: This speech was read by graduating high school seniors at the May 27 CBCS graduation ceremony. Several people requested we reprint the speech in the paper as it captured the essence of the class of 2023 and the community of which they are a part of…)
Thank you, families, friends, teachers, administrators, and community members! We would not be here today without your love and support. Even though we are here to celebrate an ending, the beginning is a powerful place to start.
At a very early age, we learned that in Crested Butte, unlike most places, everyone hopes and prays for as much snowfall as possible. The more snow, the more fun, the prettier the flowers, and the fuller the lakes and rivers become.
Much like each snow season, the start of each school year means new adventures, friendships, and challenges! Each year, the Slate is clean and new beginnings arrive. In fact, our experience at CBCS has been much like that of our nearby rivers. Whether it be the Slate or the East, making its way from the top of the surrounding mountains, through town, and finally spilling into the Blue Mesa and beyond!
All rivers and streams start at a high point. For the Class of 2023, that high point was on the first day of Kindergarten whether it was here at CBCS or other headwaters around the country. Our families, preschools, and community were our foundation: filling us with love and a sense of belonging as we proudly started our education. As our class trickled into classrooms, we were equally nervous and eager for what would come. Luckily, we had each other. With most of us knowing each other since birth, we knew we were a part of something special.
The incredible elementary teachers encouraged us to keep moving forward. We meandered through the hallways from class to class, grade to grade, growing, discovering, and achieving. We learned to Seek the Peak and go with the flow, understanding that if we faced a setback, we would be gently nudged back into the current.
As elementary students, we were pure and innocent, as valuable as the snow, giving and receiving joy and always on the move.
A trickle becomes a creek. A creek becomes a stream, and a stream becomes a river that travels through the world experiencing both roaring of rapids and the clarity of springs. This concept of a united community has infiltrated the fundamentals of our generation. We’ve been raised on the premise that individuality is important, but unity is vital for success.
Of course, these ideas were not explained in that way. We were 6. We would wake up, take the bus with the scary older kids, sit on the rug, check the weather, eat snacks, read, and enjoy recess. The rest of the day didn’t necessarily matter because, let’s be honest, we were there for Sandy’s gym class and the snow hill. Digging tunnels, playing games, and sliding down the icy slides; we felt as if we were on the top of the world. Everyone loved the snow hill. It didn’t matter if you were an avid reader, fort builder, gamer, or skier, every one of us was out on that hill doing things that we saw as “living on the edge.”
The real “living on the edge” happened on field trips. From traveling to Parker Pastures to look at all the cute animals, to the Keystone Continental Divide hike, and Denver Museum trip, we felt like we could take on the world. For many of us, it was our first time away from home for extended periods of time. Some parents were glad, others were devastated because it reminded them that their babies were growing up too fast, but all we cared about was who was in our cabin group, if they were ever going to turn off the lights at the Museum, and if the food was good or not.
These small moments prepared us for the future more than we could ever grasp. The little streams that we took for granted allowed the class of 2023 to evolve, forming the powerful current that carried us through school, and continues to carry us as we diverge into the next walks of life, giving beauty to what we decide to foster.
This place we call home, these beautiful mountains, this magnificent valley – are a testament to the power of the river through time. Always moving, always changing. However, the powerful and steady stream faces many blocks on its way to the future. Fallen trees and unwavering boulders try to challenge the unity of the river.
In middle school, we craved to be identical while we fought for individuality. Riddled with insecurities, we faced the changes brought on by a storm of emotion and newly discovered knowledge. Bringing a state of chaos to the secondary wing and definitely annoying the high schoolers; we felt that we were old and independent while still relying on our parents and the RTA to carry us to new opportunities.
Days filled with Mr. Egedy’s notes sheets covered with the definition of republic, science notebooks, and a selection of novels including To Kill a Mockingbird, Where the Red Fern Grows, and what I would say was not a fan favorite, The Old Man and the Sea, were objects we carried with us along with fragments of innocence we still clung to. These assignments have continuously given us the skills needed to face new adversities and propel us into new opportunities.
The days of insecurity and terrifying change were also filled with memories of fun. Whether it was middle school dances, watching Surf’s Up a thousand times, or getting absolutely wrecked going off a jump on Nordic skis, our metamorphosis was saturated with adventures.
Our immaturity allowed for joy to spread in the lives we were building while we developed the maturity to create positive change that those around us valued most. We began to look into the future with new anticipation of what lay ahead for us as a class. Always moving, always changing.
Middle school was where we truly started to make our own decisions on who we wanted to be. Sure, we had our drama and chaos of typical middle schoolers but we made choices that grew us from Crow Canyon to the Sand Dunes. We learned what it felt like to laugh every day in the summer playing with our friends. We also learned how much it hurt when those same friends turned their backs on us. But the conflict was temporary, and our grade became closer than ever.
Throughout the years, the teachers talked about how our class had something special. While it didn’t always seem true, the choices we made to include everyone and connect with each other made our class exceptional. We kept flowing, testing our limits and exploring our town, growing into teenagers.
In middle school, we found freedom in trips to True Value and Rumors. As our class went from babies asking for play dates to working our first jobs, we found our roles in this community. We started to build relationships with teachers, coaches, and community members on our own. More than anything, we chose to become each other’s family.
Friends have moved away like some parts of the river branch off and new streams and creeks join the river like many of our classmates became integrated in our grade. We learned to absorb the idea that while we may be individual droplets, there was also great power in flowing together as one big rapid. Our class is made up of teammates, artists, volunteers, musicians, intellectuals, and adventurers.
We ran through town like the rushing Coal Creek and found worth in our bond with each other. Our love gave us all a rock to stand on when our individual lives got hard. We knew each of our classmates had our back and was holding us in support. The magic of this town comes from the people within who come together in celebrations and hardships. This magic rushes through our class.
As the river gets deeper, the current gets stronger, and rapids begin to form. While rapids are brutal, scary, and rough, bouncing back from a giant rapid may be one of the most gratifying feelings. This is high school; overwhelming at times, but fun and gratifying through it all. High school is a time for growth, facing adversity, and rising above the obstacles we’ve navigated.
For us, high school began with trekking outside to our new modular classrooms, feeling as though we were back at the bottom of the food chain, and soon hearing about a deadly virus beginning to spread. While the world shut down, we finished the year out online and stayed strong. In all honesty, sophomore year was pretty much a blur. As Junior year homecoming approached it felt like COVID was finally letting up and we were getting our typical high school experience back. That was until the wind took our tent…
I believe this final year has been one where we’ve grown stronger, together. Spending the first day of our senior year on the top of a hill to watch a beautiful Colorado sunrise was the perfect way to start it. Singing along to music while we cuddled in blankets and laughed as the sky quickly turned pink and orange. — A core memory was made that day.
As this year went on, it was filled with stressing about college applications, celebrating acceptances, and getting to feel the excitement of our futures over the loudspeakers every morning during Jennifer’s college announcements. The bond our grade has is special. We’ve heard it from teachers, and we feel it ourselves. While our grade has always had many different personalities, we still find a way to flow together to foster life-long friendships. We have a sibling-like connection that will leave behind a meaningful legacy.
Grace – Moving on
So now, like all rivers, it’s time for us to leave the comfort of our boundaries that we know so well and have carried us through life this far to enter a new journey. It’s hard to leave the place that for many of us is all we know as home. Ever evolving, changing together and supporting each other through it all. The truth is you have most likely known the person you are sitting next to your whole life. It’s a rare gift that many people don’t get to experience.
Graduates, it›s easy to lose sight of how thankful we should be to have grown up in Crested Butte. For the rest of our lives, we will meet new people and hear about their upbringings and be grateful. So as you go out into the world, always remember the community that continues to be your home.
We sit here in front of all of you scared, excited, and intimidated. But we should all find peace and gratitude in the foundation that each and every one of us has today as we leave this valley. We will carry the principles and tools we have learned here for the rest of our lives.
Despite the path you choose to go down, and the many different choices life will present to you, the unwavering support of the community you see before you will propel you into meaningful success. There is not one right path in life, but this school has revealed that hard work gives you the power to find success wherever you go.
Piper – Teachers
Thank you to the teachers and faculty who have helped us every step of the way. The countless unpaid hours, fostering of our education, babysitting our waterfalls of emotions, writing letters of recommendation late into the night, teaching us to critically think about the world, showing us the complexity of everything, coaching us through sports and life, and going above and beyond to make sure we succeed.
Katie – Community
Thank you to the community that raised us, because it truly does take a village. We are extremely appreciative of all the time you have spent giving us volunteer and work opportunities, supporting us at our games, and preparing us for college.
Cassidy – Parents
Thank you to our parents for their unwavering support through the past years. You have loved each of us unconditionally. Thank you for your efforts to connect this group and loving each kid as your own. We are endlessly grateful for everything you have done.
Juliana – Each other
Thank you to our class, who has gotten each other through all the challenges, joys, and everything else that has come along with these wild last 13 years at CBCS.
Campbell – Ending
Throughout our educational journey, we were forced to be uncomfortable and challenged, but we learned to survive and now we have truly accomplished something amazing. We survived and learned to flourish because of the support, encouragement, and teamwork between each other and our unique community. So, on graduation, when we are ready to empty into a larger body of water, we reflect back on our journey and celebrate the end of something irreplaceable, although this is truly just the beginning.
So, it’s time to leave. Time to find our passions and show the world the many ways we will change it. Have courage and strength in even the hardest situations. Show compassion to all that we meet and all we continue to know. Speak out and invoke change when we see injustice. And try to present our best selves every single day. Once a Titan, Always a Titan.