Graduates step forward into the future

Over the past week, local students reached a major milestone in their academic careers as they celebrated their graduations from high school and college. Together students, teachers, faculty members, friends and family, and the community gathered to celebrate these accomplishments and offer support and encouragement to those who are taking the next step into their futures.

Green River High School celebrated the graduation of 135 seniors on Monday night. Giving the senior class address, Rylie Johnson recognized the wide variety of graduates with different experiences and different plans. She acknowledged that many struggled to get to that point, but pointed out that each one had accomplished something phenomenal.

"No matter what your situation is, you all deserve to be here," Johnson told the seniors. "You deserve to be recognized and celebrated for your amazing accomplishments. I don't care if you're sitting in the front row, back, or somewhere in between. You belong here right now."

Adara Akin also encouraged her fellow graduates about their worth in her opening speech. She acknowledged the challenges they went through to get to that point, and asked them to look around and think, "No one is more deserving of this moment than I am."

Graduates were also reminded that as they go into the future, plans they have may change, but that's alright. Laural Kurth stressed this concept in her closing speech. She had adults in the audience stand, then sit down if they could relate to major ways their lives had turned out differently than they expected. By the end, everyone was seated. But she had them stand to their feet again if they were still happy with their lives, and cheer for the graduates they were proud of.

"You're going to be ok," Kurth told the graduates.

"I want you to remember to never give up on your dreams, even if they have to be shifted," Johnson said, reiterating the same concept. "Stay strong, be kind, and always find the joy in life."

Students from Expedition Academy celebrated their graduation on Tuesday night. Principal Ralph Obray pointed out that in EA's very first graduation there were only five seniors. With this year's 21 graduates, with hopefully a 22nd at the end of the week, EA has now graduated over 505 students.

Star photo by Hannah Romero

Ali Vigil and Taisha Boutin

During this year's ceremony, graduates shared some of their experiences and their gratitude for the support of their family members and of EA staff, who became like a family to them. From Taisha Boutin getting rescued after she got her arm stuck in a vending machine, to Damon Summa learning that success comes from striving thanks to "Mr. Trumble and his hellish mountain biking routes," to Kaylyn Anderson appreciating her teachers letting her be flexible with her assignments when she had to have surgery, the students remembered the support that helped them make it through.

Dan Parson, who is in his first year teaching science at EA, spoke to the students to acknowledge their perseverance and the strength of each of them making up EA. First, he spoke to the seniors in "their language."

"Yo fam, major vibes and mad props to the peeps of 2024 for leveling up, glowing up, and snagging that bussin' diploma," he began, earning laughter and cheers from the graduates.

Turning more serious, Parson reflected on why he wanted to teach at Expedition Academy, where the "bad kids" go. But he shared the stories of the types of kids who might attend EA - the boy who acted out in class because he fell behind after losing his mom, the silent girl who was bullied until she decided it was safer to be invisible, the boy with ADHD who was told he was too out of control to succeed, the girl who self-medicated and self-harmed until she questioned the point of existing. These are the types of students who may come to Expedition Academy, Parson said, and find a place where they can be heard and seen and given the chance to grow.

"You stand not as victims of your traumas, but as triumphant survivors of your journey," Parson said. "Each of you has navigated through adversities both monumental and mundane, challenges that many may never comprehend. Your presence in this moment is a testament to your resilience. Sitting here proves that. It proves that the human spirit is more powerful than any trauma and that it needs to be nourished."

"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our lives," Logan Strength told his fellow EA graduates. "As we stand on the threshold of endless possibilities, let us embrace our challenges that lie ahead with courage, resilience, and determination. Together we have weathered storms, overcome obstacles, and emerged stronger and more resilient than ever before."

Last Friday night, Western Wyoming Community College celebrated its commencement ceremony, giving Associate's degrees, Bachelor's degrees, and certificates to over 370 seniors. The students were recognized as the largest group of graduates from Western in the last 10 years.

Star photo by Hannah Romero

Skylee Gomez

There were also four high school students with concurrent enrollment who got their degrees from Western at the same time as their high school degrees. The dual students were Green River High School Senior Courtney Clark, Green River High School Senior Isabell Salas, Black Butte High School Senior Caitlynn Shipp, and homeschool graduate Patrick Hager.


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