The Fowler Grizzlies were out of hibernation on Friday night as they graduated the Class of 2018 with full honor and recognition. Jakob Juul was salutatorian and there were three girls tied for valedictorian: Araceli Gonzalez, Jacee Manchego and Gabriella Leone. The Fowler Jr/Sr High School Band played the fanfare and processional, as well as the recessional and the Fowler High School Fight Song, after which the class threw their hats in the air as a celebration of their accomplishment and a few weeks or months of freedom before they are back in other classes.
Superintendent Alfred Lotrich welcomed the audience after the invocation by David Gage and Chaney McCuistion. Salutatorian Jakob Juul gave his address first, starting with first grade, where he “learned how to lie up in the lunch line” as well as his ABC’s and numbers. He also remembered the accelerated reader in the second grade and cursive writing plus more than he really wanted to know about cowboys and American History in the third grade. In junior high, he remembered first of all - no recess - and bells for changing classes. Although he claims to have written his speech the night before, he found his inspiration for it in the baccalaureate address, “Our life is the reflection of our priorities.” This means, he said, “We choose who we want to be in life. . . what we have a passion for . . . whether it is racing cars or showing livestock.” He said their class is a family. He thanked the teachers, especially for staying after hours to help students who didn’t understand and their life lessons and stories. He thanked his parents: “We were never rich, but I never wanted for anything. I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, help in changing tires…” He advised his fellow students, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll see the stars.” To the undergraduates, he said, “Be smart and look for opportunities.” To the audience, he said, “ Wish us well and watch us prosper.”
Aracelli, one of the three valedictorians, spoke next. She told us “Life is like climbing up a pole, putting on a harness, and jumping off - it’s a leap of faith.” All the seniors have been applying to colleges, making plans, thinking and praying a lot. She said not to be so absorbed in yourself you forget to look at the world and the people around you. She can’t wait to see what all her classmates do. “Work hard in all you do…Look past yourself… Treat others the way you want to be treated.” As a last suggestion, she added, “Be humble, give back.”
Manchego was the next speaker. She said, “Saying thank you is not enough for all the people who have helped us with their life lessons, stories and humor.” She also wanted to thank each member of her class. “You can Google for a career, and many other things, but not for what’s in your heart.” She, too had memories of school years - tetherball, mud ball fights, getting almost blown away while skateboarding, dancing around campfires, shattered windshields, Friday night lights. She thanked her parents for never demanding a 4.0 academic average and always being there for her. “We’ll all make mistakes, but we’ll get back on our feet. Make it [your life] what you want. Enjoy every day. This is only the first chapter; there’s so much ahead!” She also advised, “Stay with the people who support you. Never forget those people, even in you life of adventures.”
Gabrille Leone added, “Thank you for your forgiveness,” and to the class, “Go forth and find yourselves.” She said to the faculty, parents and fellow students, “I can promise that wherever we go, whatever we do, we will have you with us. Before you know it, someday will be yesterday. You grow up in Fowler, you grow up in love.”
Russell Bates presented the class and Eric Larson presented the diplomas. Each student, in turn, came to the front of the stage while Donna Aragon told the audience about that student’s future plans. The students were amazingly diverse, several wanted to be teachers, one wanted to study law, one planned to become a journeyman electrician, a couple wanted to study nursing, one will train to be an airline pilot, another will attend Pueblo Community College to become a welder, one will become a paramedic, a couple will study animal science and come back to help with their family’s agricultural businesses; several will study business. The group is well rounded and seems to understand we need people to keep us running as well as people in professions.
A slide show of the students’ lives was prepared by Michael Aragon and his students, showing skill in video editing. After the benediction by Dominic Devore and Morgan Samuels, the fanfare and recessional took the seniors out, and then back again to sing the Fowler Fight Song and throw their hats in the air. The seniors are well launched into their diverse futures.