Aspen High School celebrates 127th commencement

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
Senator Gail Schwartz gives the commencement address at the Aspen High School graduation ceremony Saturday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

As Matilda Nickell delivered her co-valedictorian speech at Aspen High School’s 127th commencement, she made one request of her fellow classmates: carry on with your kindness.

“What’s remarkable about this class, aside from all of your wonderful accomplishments, is your kind nature,” Nickell said. “Changes in life can be scary and nothing in our future is certain, but your kindness and compassion towards others will take you far.”

Nickell moved to Aspen from Bogota, Colombia, for her sophomore year, and said it was her classmates’ care and compassion that convinced her to stay and made her fall in love with Aspen.

On Saturday afternoon, 143 Aspen High School seniors closed one chapter of their lives and welcomed the next as they walked across the stage of Benedict Music Tent to accept their diplomas.

The class of 2016 is Aspen High School’s largest graduating class to date at 148 students (five of which did not attend the ceremony), said college counseling office administrative assistant Terry Rigney.

It also was one of Aspen’s brightest classes, setting a record for the highest class grade point average. The class of 2016 averaged a 4.459 GPA on a 4.0 scale, according to college counselor Kathy Klug.

Aspen High School salutatorian Harriet Pryor further highlighted a few of her class’s academic achievements during her speech.

Seventy-nine seniors graduated with International Baccalaureate certificates, 19 seniors with International Baccalaureate diplomas and more than half of the class received National Honor Society recognition.

Pryor also discussed how the Aspen community and school district has empowered her with a strong sense of self.

Nickell, Pryor and co-valedictorian David Mondry were commended by Aspen parent Liz Bryant for their thoughtful and creative speeches.

“I thought all of the student speakers were very original,” Bryant said. “I was very moved by the entire ceremony.”

Graduation speaker Sen. Gail Schwartz also delivered an inspiring commencement address that dealt with overcoming adversity.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins and family friends of the graduating class filled the spacious music tent as well as many alumni and members of the community who did not have children in the graduating class.

“It’s always fun to see another generation of Aspen High graduating and questioning authority,” said Aspen High School class of 1976 alumnus Scott Writer.

Writer said he and his wife also attended Saturday’s ceremony to watch Aspen High School senior Mackenzie Langley graduate.

Every audience member inside the tent stood and clapped, hollered and cheered when Langley walked across the stage with a walker to receive her diploma. According to Langley’s older brother, Coby, it was his sister’s first time walking in front of people via a walker since sustaining an injury in a vehicle crash in June 2015.

“It was very special,” Coby said, noting that he shed a few tears of joy for his sister.

Aspen High School Principal Thayrn Mulberry said the community “should be very proud of these graduates.”

Mulberry also recognized Aspen High School Head Girl Anna Belinski with the 2016 principal award for her leadership and service.

“I am so thankful for all the experience that Aspen High School has given me,” Belinski said after the ceremony. “And thrilled to see where everyone in the class ends up.”

The school has high hopes for its most recent graduating class, whose motto is “Best you’ve ever seen, class of 2016.”

“Truly, this is the best class in many ways,” Klug wrote in the ceremony program. “The class motto expresses the character and attitude of this unique class.”

The Aspen High School class of 2016 also started a new tradition: a ceremonial parade through the halls of the middle and elementary schools as a way to say thank you and goodbye to the teachers in the other schools.

“The Parade of the Graduates” also is intended to inspire other students in the school district to go educationally through high school and beyond.


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