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Class of ’07: Outreach and service

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Aspen High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday was not all pomp and platitudes.The 126 students of the class of 2007 were honored for their deep convictions and community involvement during a three-hour ceremony at the Aspen Music Tent.Marching in to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” graduates walked out to the 2007 James Bond theme and, in between, collected some $300,000 in scholarships and awards for everything from a sense of humor to community service.Lee Bycel, the director of the Western Region of American Jewish World Service, turned his back on the assembled parents and visitors so he could deliver his commencement speech directly to the graduates.Bycel called the class of 2007 “individuals, visionaries and doers,” and encouraged them to “keep being troublemakers” for what is right and for the dispossessed.

Students said Bycel worked with some students as a moderator for seminars at the Aspen Institute and visited the school in April to get to know students.Bycel talked of life’s choices, mistakes and priorities, and said, “It is not how life treats us; it is how we treat life.”Riding in a Land Rover in a desert in Chad while on a trip to help refugees of Darfur, Bycel spied a child dressed in rags begging at the roadside.He didn’t say anything and the Land Rover sped past, but since that day he lives with a gnawing regret for not stopping, for losing the forest for the trees, and he said it’s not about that regret, but learning from the experience.Bycel encouraged graduates to follow their dreams, but also to listen to their conscience and stop for those less fortunate.”This is your time; I know you can do great things,” Bycel told graduates.

Matthew Beirne delivered the valedictory address about the achievements of his peers (see page A4), and co-salutarians Laura Hatanaka and Kyla Walter reminded their classmates of “Oh, the places we’ve been” in a fun Dr. Seuss sendup.After members of the community handed out scholarship awards and students marched across the stage to pick up their diplomas, graduates tossed their tassels to one side and threw their mortarboards high in the air.”It was so exciting,” said senior Kyla Sobieralski, who earned a scholarship for academic progress Saturday. Sobieralski plans to join the professional snowboarding circuit before going to college, and said she looks forward to a special night of graduation pampering, complete with haircuts, massages and manicures, for seniors at the Aspen Club. “We’re so spoiled, it’s ridiculous.””I feel like I accomplished a lot because I’m the first one to graduate from my family,” said Bernardo Ruiz, a native of Mexico, who plans to attend Johnson and Wales University to study sports marketing. He hopes to be the sports manager of the Broncos one day.”I’m done; I’m outta here,” laughed Peter Popinchalk. He said it is important to “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” like Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” he sang during Saturday’s ceremony, and said he’ll take a year off to live near Jackson Hole, Wyo., before going to college in Durango.”They do so much,” said Travis Moore, an Aspen High School science teacher. Moore said with service efforts like the school’s Action for Africa group and campaigns to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, the class of 2007 was a model of outreach, a group always willing to start a fundraiser or benefit for someone in need.



“They’re all stellar. I’m going to miss a lot of them,” Moore said.”The whole day was just amazing,” said Andy MacCracken, the class “Best Boy” who was careful to add it was surreal, too. MacCracken said he appreciated Bycel’s message of service and that he addressed the students directly. MacCracken, who played and sang his original song “To Tomorrow” for the event, laughed that he’ll play a skunk in a summer production at Theater Aspen before studying political science at American University in the fall.And while valedictorian Matthew Beirne said half of Saturday’s graduates will work jobs that haven’t been invented yet, he promised the graduates, “We are ready.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com


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