Grand County High School students Juan Salazar (left) and Cameron Taylor in the class of 2018 are all smiles as they walk arm-in-arm during their graduation ceremony. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

Grand County High School’s class of 2018 graduated on the evening of Thursday, May 31, and the 94 students were sent off with words of encouragement from several classmates and faculty in the hour-long commencement ceremony.

Student Body President Brooklin Kennedy Hugentobler welcomed the class, faculty and attendees gathered for the outdoor ceremony. She thanked the student body and reminded them to appreciate every moment, and thanked the graduating class, also reminding them of their class theme, “Together We Are Grand.”

“To the graduating class, let us take these lessons and memories that we have shared together and take them to the world to bring goodness around us,” Hugentobler said. “Let us each find success in the many paths we will take. I love each one of you and I will never forget you. Remember the years we spent together and remember, together we are grand.”

Before the valedictorians’ speeches, seniors Elton Kunze-Jones, Michaiah McElhaney-Jackson-Sims and Billy Bruin Meador performed “Rivers and Roads” by the band The Head and the Heart, as a send-off for their class, citing the lyrics as meaningful to this point in their lives.

Co-valedictorians Grace Osusky and Tyler Moreau took turns sharing their words of encouragement with the class with two unique speeches.

Osusky began the pair of speeches, approaching the podium and sharing that she would be giving her speech in the form of a spoken word poem.

“My speech is not going to be your typical speech,” Osusky said. “One of the most effective valedictorian speeches I’ve ever seen in my life was written as a spoken-word poem, so I’m going to be performing my speech as a spoken word poem.”

She began her speech by reminiscing about the ease of elementary school and childhood, quickly moving through the stages of adolescence before finally encouraging her class to keep being strong and determined.

“Because the world doesn’t always do what we want it to,” Osusky said. “We must be willing to stand up for what is right, what is morally just. We must not give in to hatred or xenophobia … It’s our job to stand up for the blind lady justice. So, my fellow students, if you take one thing away, live the life you want, one that will not haunt you in years to come, not taunt you with the steady beat of a lingering drum because you felt too shy, too weak, too insecure to do what you felt was right … Don’t wait for tomorrow to start your life. Be dauntless, be bold and do it tonight.”

Her speech was followed by that of her co-valedictorian Tyler Moreau, who offered a much different approach to life. Among his suggestions: keep a sense of child-like confidence.

“You know as children we can make declarations like, ‘I am going to be an astronaut,’ and be completely convinced that it is true … I bring this up because deep down that inner child never goes away in any of us, no matter how much we grow, and learn and develop,” Moreau said. “Somewhere in all of us, we have whatever drives us to be individuals, what makes us believe we are unique. Tonight, I want to encourage you all to follow whatever gives you that childhood excitement, because if you do you will end up where you’re supposed to be.”

Moreau also acknowledged that his class might not have been the highest performing academically, but that they cared fiercely when it counted.

“There’s been a running joke the past couple of years that the class of 2018 has been one of the most underwhelming classes to pass through this school in a long while. And while the class of 2020 ultimately took that title from us, I believe that Maralee put the perfect explanation of our class together,” Moreau said. “We rarely care about anything, but when we do care about something, we care about it to the point where it is unbelievably annoying. So here’s to the class of 2018 going out into the world and caring so much that it’s annoying.”

English teacher Joshua Cameron kept the crowd going with his humorous and creative speech, starting in with a short rap: “Strollin’ on the stage like a prodigee, you see me on the street always say, ‘Hey,’ before you walk through the arch, listen to my truth flying at you like shooting stars, I’m a peaceful warrior … my words blowing your mind like supernova.”

Referencing material from his class, Cameron continued his speech by sharing an anecdote from his past of being his own romantic hero, and encouraged students to be their own romantic heroes.

“Henry David Thoreau said, ‘The great mass of men live lives full of quiet desperation and so we should rise above and make a conscious effort to live our lives deliberately,’” he said. “So, with that knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. Don’t let parents tell you you can’t do it. Don’t let friends tell you you can’t do it. Don’t let church leaders, bosses, girlfriends and boyfriends, teachers — don’t let society tell you you can’t do it. But most important of all, don’t let yourself tell you that you can’t do it.

“Because if I, who was scared of death of women because they have the power to accept me or reject me, if I could find the courage and the will to seize the day, so can you. So go out there, live your lives deliberately, your beautiful lives, be your own romantic hero. I’ll see you guys on the other side of that arch.”

Following Cameron’s speech, the class of 2018 was recommended for graduation by Grand County High School Principal Dr. Stephen Hren and Grand County School District Superintendent JT Stroder. Then, walking through the G-shaped arch in their red and white gowns, they were handed their high school diplomas.

94 students graduate from Grand County High School

We rarely care about anything, but when we do care about something we care about it to the point where it is unbelievably annoying. So here’s to the class of 2018 going out into the world and caring so much that it’s annoying.