Salutatorian Deanna Irvin addresses the audience at the Grand County High School graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 22 [Photo by Lindsey Bartosh / Moab Sun News]

“Are you ready?” was the question Student Body President Brendon Henderson had for his fellow classmates at the Grand County High School (GCHS) graduation ceremony on Thursday night, May 22.

Dressed in long red and white gowns with many students draped in leis or colored lanyards representing different honors, the 127 students of the Class of 2014 comprised the largest group to ever graduate from GCHS. It is also one of the most high-achieving classes, GCHS Principal Stephen Hren said.

“This class is very strong academically and athletically,” Hren said. “Our valedictorian, Adam Jenkinson, will be going to Yale on a full ride scholarship this fall,” he said. “Athletically, our teams have performed well with large numbers of our senior class represented on the teams. The football team … played for the state championship. The baseball team played for the state championship. In addition, our boys’ track team took the state championship this past weekend at BYU. This was a great group of students.”

The class had five students graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA): Jenkinson, Becca Farnsworth, Terrance Farnsworth, Deanna Irvin and Nathaniel Smith. Twenty-nine of the students also graduated with Honors.

After Henderson finished greeting the crowd, James Stocks presented the annual Circle of Honor Award. Recipients of the Circle of Honor have 10 years of service for an alumnus of GCHS or 15 years of service for non-alumnus. The criteria for defining service includes direct service to the school or district, recognition as a teacher, administrator, or coach, or financial or service support, or having been recognized in a way that brings recognition to GCHS. This year’s honoree was Ron Pierce. Pierce served as a teacher in the Grand County School District for 30 years. He taught at all the schools in the district and coached various athletic teams, including Junior Varsity football, wrestling, and boys and girls tennis. He served for many years as the Driver’s Education teacher. Pierce also brought the Sterling Scholar program to GCHS and said this was his greatest accomplishment during his service.

“I think the most outstanding thing that I can say I was able to do for Grand County High School was to bring Sterling Scholar here because I thought our students could compete with any school in this state,” Pierce said. “And they have.”

The Class of 2014 had two winners this year in the Sterling Scholar competition: Jenkinson and Justin Cresswell. The class also had six runners-up.

The Salutatory Address was given by Deanna Irvin. In her address, Irvin talked about success and how defining your own happiness will lead to success.

“We let other’s ideas of success poison our own,” she said. “If it’s what you want and it’s what makes you happy, than that’s what matters. You have to decide what success looks like to you.”

Following Irvin, Jenkinson talked about how when he started writing his valedictory address he had no idea how to begin it or how or where it would end, much like how every new situation in life is started.

“I realized something, when we first walked in to high school, most, if not all of us, didn’t know where or how to start,” he said. “And we definitely didn’t know how it was going to end. As we stepped on to the teal and salmon colored tiles for that first time, we were filled with uncertainty; yet uncertainty is only another word for opportunity.”

Jenkinson continued to explain the challenges the graduating class had faced over its four years in high school and the accomplishments it had reached. He then talked about the new, uncharted territory the graduates are facing.

“Tomorrow, a new challenge presents itself,” he said. “It is a challenge that will be long and hard. Tonight, as we think of our future, we are filled with uncertainty. We know not what our future holds. We are in the exact same situation as we were four years ago and life isn’t that much different than high school.”

Seniors Garrett Brown and Reyce Knutson, along with underclassmen Alec Tatton, Austin Aubry and Joey McFarland, and 2013 graduate Dexter Sheets performed “Come Sail Away,” by Styx, before the commencement speakers, Ed DeFrancia and Richard Jenkinson, took the stage.

DeFrancia has been with the Grand County School District since 1997 while Richard Jenkinson has been a teacher in Moab for 20 years. Both will be retiring this year.

Sharing the stage, the teachers pulled up the chairs they used in their classrooms and got comfortable. DeFrancia propped himself up on a tall wooden stool and Richard Jenkinson was seated in a large, leather office chair.

“This is the way our students know us,” Richard Jenkinson joked. “They know my chair better than they know me.”

DeFrancia opened the commencement speech with advice about pursuing happiness, before the speech took a different and an uncommon approach.

“We realize the speakers of past years have set the bar quite high,” DeFrancia said. “So we decided we needed to give equal time to the other end of the spectrum.”

The duo offered something unique about each of the 127 students.

Just prior tothe recommendation of the graduates by Hren to Superintendent Scott Crane and the school board, the senior chorus sang one last musical selection, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Members of the school board then presented diplomas to the graduates.

So, Class of 2014: “Are you ready?”

Class of ’14’s 127 graduates set out to forge their own paths in life

We let other’s ideas of success poison our own. If it’s what you want and it’s what makes you happy, than that’s what matters. You have to decide what success looks like to you.”