Conifer High School’s graduation ceremony was filled with sunshine and rain, successes and dreams, gratitude and recognition.
More than 200 graduates received their diplomas as they anticipated their next steps during an outdoor commencement on the Conifer High School football field that showed off the foothills’ unpredictable weather — first sunshine, then rain.
“Part of today is realizing that one of the biggest things we are taking with us is the identity,” said graduate Maya Dawson, who was the ceremony’s master of ceremony. “(We are) mountain kids. … Regardless of where you go from here, there will always be a new trail. Remember, you’re a mountain kid, and mountain kids are tough.”
The school honored valedictorian Madeline Potter and salutatorian Zachary McCarthy, plus those going into the military, completing the 200 Club Community Service, completing an associate’s degree along with graduating, different national honor society members, getting the Seal of Biliteracy, a STEM diploma and more.
Conifer graduates Bryce Merrill, Madeline Potter and Grace Hancock sang the class song “Country Roads” by John Denver. Others said members of the class of 2023 would burst out singing that song at random times during school.
Principal Greg Manier told the graduates they challenged him, inspired him and impressed him with their character and resilience, particularly as the graduates had to shake off the pandemic.
“You pushed back against the wave of isolation to become one of the closest and innovative classes that Conifer has ever seen,” he told the graduates.
History teacher Jackalyn Barnes, who gave the keynote address, reminded the graduates of how unique each one was with different strengths and weakness, which will send them in different directions after graduation.
“You reminded me that showing up is 90 percent of the battle,” Barnes said. “If you show up to school, work, events, relationships and friendships, your life will be happy from all the little moments. Showing up … means a lot to others. Go forward and show up.”
Senior speaker Mia Constantino encouraged her fellow graduates to keep a sense of wonder as they went out in the world, also quoting the movie “High School Musical” that members of the class were “all in this together.”
Salutatorian McCarthy added that the future was defined by expectations set in the present of the careers they will find and the people they become, while Valedictorian Potter emphasized the importance of thanking those who have stood behind them — parents, family members, friends, teachers and other adults.
Community Superintendent Wes Paxton, CHS’ former principal, told the graduates he remembered the day they entered the school as graduates, and their experiences over four years help mold them into the young adults they are today.
“Over the past four years,” Paxton said, “you have learned the true meaning of what it takes to become a Lobo.”