Basalt valedictorians: Be courageous, define your success; we did it |

Basalt valedictorians: Be courageous, define your success; we did it

Megan Maley and Steven Garcia-Machuca
Basalt High valedictorians
Co-valedictorians Megan Maley, right, and Steven Garcia-Machuca give speeches during the Basalt High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 1, 2019, on the BHS football field. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

BHS valedictorians Steven Garcia-Machuca and Megan Maley gave a shared speech at Saturday’s graduation. Here’s what they told their fellow classmates:

Megan: Good morning and thank you for joining us in celebrating the graduation of the Basalt High School class of 2019.

Steven: Buenos Días y hola a todos. Gracias por acompañarnos en la celebracion de graduacion de la clase de Basalt High School 2019.

Megan: On behalf of all the graduates, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the teachers, counselors, and staff members that go above and beyond for BHS students.

Steven: We would also like to thank the families and friends that join us today. Without your support, none of us would be here. Nos gustaría agradecer a las familias y amistades que nos acompañan hoy. Sin su apoyo, ninguno de nosotros estaría aquí.

Megan: It is an absolute privilege to share this honor with my best friend, Steven, whose relentless work ethic, fierce character, and unparalleled dance moves have inspired me since the 6th grade.

Steven: I feel blessed and incredibly proud to be on this stage with my best friend in the entire world. There isn’t another person I would rather have next to me and words can’t describe how proud I am of her. It is my pleasure to introduce Megan’s Valedictorian speech.

Megan: Because I have spent most of the last four years studying, I am now charged with the daunting task of imparting the wisdom and insight I have gained in doing so. I hope my lack of public speaking skills will not detract from my message. And while I have indeed learned countless lessons throughout my academic career thus far, among the most valuable were not taught in a classroom.

For as long as I can remember, my family has embarked on what we call “crazy adventures.” Crazy adventures almost never involve a trail, and if they do, my Dad tends to stray off with me, my sister, and Mom in tow. These expeditions have ranged from snowshoeing across Independence Pass to bushwhacking an unmarked ridgeline above the Frying Pan River Valley. My childhood is filled with many excursions similar to these, but one, in particular, distinguishes itself.

We had been off-roading on the top of the Continental Divide and stopped at the base of a waterfall. The plan was to follow the alpine stream to its lake source. After climbing alongside what seemed to be an endless cascade of water, we finally reached Windsor Lake. As we approached the long-awaited pond, two hikers came into view, striding up by trail. Why had we trudged up a waterfall when there was a trail all along? As I inspected the groomed path from afar, an unexpected sense of pride bubbled in my chest.

I have long been a subscriber to my father’s philosophy, “Why follow a trail when everywhere you look you can go?” But that day, I discovered the true purpose of crazy adventures — to instill the ability to think critically, creatively, and divergently.

Now, I’m not suggesting you go run off into the wilderness in search of a lake. Trailblazing goes far beyond my family’s off-trail hiking habits.

Our generation will face issues that will require nothing less than a radical deviation from the standard trail. The environmental crisis, gun safety, spread of disease, human rights, and gender equality are just a few of the challenges in desperate need of risk-taking trailblazers. Our future relies on discovering ways not yet traveled.

I am confident that the class of 2019 is full of courageous pioneers, innovative pathfinders, and crazy adventurers. Whether it be Zoe and Kalyn pursuing medicine, Emily studying music education, or Goskany and Monserrat in criminal justice. Whether it be Jaden’s art or Tai’s service to our country. Whether it be Steven in public health and or the several future engineers and nurses sitting before us. Everyone’s path matters.

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” So consider today the trailhead to your unique, uncharted path. Each one of us is about to set foot on a crazy adventure. Take each step fearlessly and with a sense of hope. Remember that the first tracks up an intimidating waterfall have the potential to become a revolutionary trail. Class of 2019, everywhere you look, you can go.

Thank you, congratulations, and let the adventure begin!

Now, Harvard-bound on a full ride, Steven Garcia-Machuca.

Steven: I would like to start off by thanking my mother, Maria Machuca. Gracias mamá por cruzar la frontera en busca de una mejor vida, por dejar a lado sus sueños por los míos y por siempre darme todo lo que necesité y más. You are the reason why I am on this stage today and will always be my reason to continue.

Class of 2019, the day has finally come. High school is over and the rest of our lives await us. I encourage each and every one of you to live in the present today. To reflect on the path that has brought you here, to think about what awaits you tomorrow, but most importantly to be appreciative of this moment.

Success is a very subjective concept. Is it a destination? A state of being? A mindset? Many of us equate academic and professional achievement as true success.

I have often done that myself, struggling with how success has manifested in the lives of those that came before me, even without monetary or professional accomplishments.

My mother is a refugee from El Salvador and works as a custodian. Poverty and war forced her to flee her home country and find refuge in the United States. She endured the struggles of supporting a family as a single mother while adapting to a new culture and language. She has raised my little sister and me by herself, and even through all the hardship, has always kept a smile on her face. I am her definition of the American Dream and a testament that one’s background does not determine what you’re capable of. That hard work pays off and that you can make it in a system not created for you.

Soy la definición del Sueño Americano de mi mama y un testimonio de que el pasado no debe dictar el futuro. De que con esfuerzo y perseverancia uno puede alcanzar lo que uno se proponga, a pesar de un sistema y país no creado para personas como yo.

As I think about life beyond high school, I am realizing that success isn’t about making money or receiving a college degree. Real success is gaining knowledge, acquiring peace, and feeling love in all types of situations, no matter how painful. Contentment and self-love are not things money can buy yet are essential aspects of a truly successful life. Many people dwell on the past and let their misfortunes overpower the positives, overshadowing the real successes of their lives.

Success is an ever-changing goal. It is different for everyone. I do not see my mother as an unsuccessful person because no one can define her success except her. And no one will be able to define ours, except us.

How are you going to define your own success? What will that look like? How will you fight the temptation to have other people define that for you?

Take with you the values of integrity, acceptance, and tolerance this community has instilled in you. Recognize that through dialogue and conversation, we can celebrate how similar we are rather than pointing out how we are different, seeing each other as human beings rather than members of the other group.

Aim to contribute to your future community in a positive manner. Make your presence known in every room you step in.

View each challenge as a step to becoming the person you want to be and embrace each part of your story, as part of your strength.

Si Se Puede y Si Se Pudo!

Megan: We would like to leave you with our final wishes.

Steven: Trust your journey.

Megan: Embrace hardship.

Steven: Be courageous.

Megan: Define your own success.

Together: Congratulations! We did it.