Peggy Nissen, Keynote Speaker

The Class of 2013 celebrated their graduation from Grand County High School with friends and family Thursday, May 30.

Eighty-seven students walked the steps to the stage, hugged teacher Ed DeFrancia and walked though an oversized “G” amid the applause of friends and family to receive their high school diploma.

The evening began with words from the student-body president Torrie Lopez. She expressed her pride in being a Red Devil.

She described how school spirit was encouraged throughout the year with “Be” cards given to students who reflected the values of being a Red Devil.

“This represents more than Grand County High School students, but wannabees, too, who want to be a Red Devil,” Lopez said.

“To alumni, be proud to wear red attire and cheer at events. To the Class of 2013, be proud to walk through the G and receive your diploma. And to students, show your pride by showing respect.”

Salutatorian Kamron Call said that the high school years “slipped away as a dream.” He encouraged his class to “learn from the past, hope for tomorrow, live for today.” He made notice that the word “commencement” means beginning. And as the students were making their new beginning he encouraged them to “find your source of strength and don’t ever let it go.”

Valedictorian Maren Larsen expressed gratitude to teachers, staff, fellow classmates and the community “to those who guided us, employed us, inspired us.”

She made note that the word “valedictorian” means “the one to say goodbye.”

“I am nervous, but also excited,” Larsen said. “But to do the amazing things we have planned we must say goodbye. Goodbye to teachers. Some of us to say goodbye to Moab, to families and finally to each other.”

“It is time to step out of the shadows that have stood before us and cast our own shadow on the landscape of our future,” Larsen said.

Key note speaker Peggy Nissen, who served as the Grand County High School counselor for 17 years, said that her first reaction to being asked to give the keynote address was an emphatic “no.”

Yet as she contemplated why she didn’t want to get up in front of a crowd and speak, she realized that by saying no she would be doing the one thing she never wanted students to do: take the easy way out.

Nissen shared wisdom from the Dalai Lama that she had posted in her counseling office.

The first was “remember sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

She shared a story from when she was a young woman in her twenties. She did not get the job she wanted. Instead she accepted the position as a teacher at Grand County High School. She expected to work in Moab for only a year and do some hiking.

Instead, she married fellow teacher Jim Nissen and worked as a school teacher for 15 years and then additional 17 years as a school counselor. She retired from the school district two years ago. She now sits on the Grand County School board and serves as the Upward Bound coordinator.

“You will find what you get may be better,” she said.

She took an opportunity to give the students advice. She reminded them that risk is involved in every opportunity in life, to open their arms to change, but without losing their values.

“Make your life better, or even better, make someone else’s life better,” she said.

She encouraged the students to travel.

“Go to new places. Take every opportunity to expand your horizons. Many times it is the trips that go awry that are the most remembered,” she said.

Her last piece of advice was about passion.

“Love what you do,” Nissen said. “For the last 33 years I have loved what I do.”