Alta High School
The location of this year’s graduation rites for Alta High — the University of Utah — was a natural fit. The first co-hort of students accepted into Alta’s Step2theU early-college program was among the students who walked across the stage to receive their diplomas Tuesday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Alta Principal Brian McGill heralded the future Utes’ accomplishments, noting that the co-hort not only finished their high school studies but have also completed two years of university-level studies. “Due to this exclusive agreement Alta has with the U., they have been able to shave two years off of their time in college,” he said. McGill also recounted the other achievements of the Class of 2018: Big wins by the robotics teams, nearly $40,000 raised for charity, performances at Carnegie Hall, and even a back-to-back state title win by the boys soccer team. In all, McGill said, this year’s senior class received $6 million in scholarship offers — besting last year’s tally by some $1 million. He urged the students to never forget what they have learned in their four years at Alta as they make their way in the world. He challenged them to remain kind, civil, compassionate, humble and to strive to make human connections. Senior Class Historian Sydnee Pexton told her fellow graduates she “appreciated the fact that we have tried to be kind.” The Hawks were committed to building an inclusive environment where everyone was welcomed and celebrated. She recounted a family member’s concern that Alta’s traditions of excellence would falter when the school’s student population was split at the opening of a cross-town rival school. That hasn’t happened. “Alta wasn’t just strong. Alta was made stronger,” she said. “We have the power to do great things, and I am confident we will. Because we are Hawks — and that’s what we do.” Student speaker Nathan Brown recounted freshman orientation four years ago when the Alta High Class of 2018 officially met for the first time. “Day after day, we made connections that would become bonds,” he said. “You are a light. Never forget that. Wherever you go, remember you have a home at Alta High.” Canyons Board of Education member Chad Iverson congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments and encouraged them to “spend their time wisely.” In the past few weeks, he said, students have turned in final assignments, cleaned out lockers, and attended class for the last time with friends they’ve known since kindergarten. “So, what’s the next step? What are you going to do tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that? How will you go confidently into the direction of your dreams?” He also exhorted the Hawks to make the most of every moment. “Graduates, in your journeys, take pride in what you’ve done, and have faith in what you will be able achieve. May you forever remember the power of what you’ve learned at Alta High School,” he said. “In return, we promise to never forget you and all you’ve contributed to this school, this community, and Canyons School District.”
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Brighton High School
When it comes to high school graduation, there’s a lot to think about. Thoughts of getting to the arena on time, picking out the right shoes and pinning the mortarboard on just so were practically buzzing in the air at Brighton’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, but there was one universal anthem that seemed to be on everyone’s mind: change. Brighton’s class of 2018 is in for some big changes, but in the spirit of the school’s graduation theme, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” as spoken by Ghandi, these Bengals are ready to face the future. “We made it to graduation and this means change,” Brighton graduate Kathryn Cunningham told the audience gathered for the graduation ceremony. “Change can be scary. But many of us have faced challenges over the past four years. We may not have had the same circumstances, but we all made it to the same place.” Assistant Superintendent Bob Dowdle; Canyons Board of Education members Nancy Tingey and Amber Shill, who represent the Brighton area; Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Peterson, and other District administrators and leaders from Brighton attended the ceremony at the Maverik Center on Tuesday, June 5. The Bengals’ class of 2018 has crossed the finish line with gusto, with 36 seniors graduating with perfect 4.0 grade point averages — the highest number out of the school’s 49 previous graduations. Students received 211 scholarships ranging from $200 to $500,000, totaling just under $7.2 million in all. Thanks to their hard work and focus on doing their best, 174 students received honors diplomas, and 188 received advanced diplomas in recognition of their dedication to a higher academic rigor. Now the graduates will face the next phase of challenges in their lives as they go on to seek further education, employment and other paths toward success. Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood gave the seniors some advice as they considered the changes they are about to experience. “It’s never too late to be who you want to be,” he told the audience. “I hope you make the best of it. If you need to make changes, make them. Be a better student, better worker, better citizen.” Always look forward, set goals, make plans, and let past experiences propel you forward, Tingey told the group just before they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. “I am confident you will change the world and I look forward to that world,” Tingey said.
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Canyons Transition Academy
“Once you have tasted flight,” Leonardo da Vinci is reported to have said, “you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” After years of hard work, and with the caring guidance of their teachers, eight high-soaring students are taking flight from Canyons Transition Academy (CTA) this year. Some, like Curtis Haycock, who works at Walmart, and Marie Yukie, who has a paid internship at Deseret Industries, have already landed jobs. Others have set their sights on volunteering, such as, Therese Roa who hopes to put her take-charge talents to work at the Humane Society. A few are moving into apartments with close friends or picking up new hobbies. And while there are those who are undecided about their immediate plans — you can be sure they’re celebrating their achievements. The mission of CTA is to prepare students with developmental disabilities to live independent lives. “During your time at CTA, you have grown individually as you’ve demonstrated your abilities at school, in the community and in the workplace,” said Canyons Board of Education member Amber Shill told the students at a June 6 commencement ceremony. “You should be proud.” Shill thanked parents for their support, commended teachers for “their magical work,” and challenged students to do the best they can to bring their unique gifts to the world. In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss: “You’ll be on our way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” #WeAreCanyons #StudentAchievement
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Corner Canyon High School
The celebratory mood of Corner Canyon High’s commencement rites turned somber when Principal Darrell Jensen announced the school would give posthumous diplomas to two students who perished in a car crash. The parents of Ethan Fraga and Lexie Fenton were welcomed to the stage at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at the University of Utah to accept the diplomas on behalf of their children, whose November 2016 deaths rocked the tight Charger community. In praising the accomplishments of the Class of 2018 — “the most decorated class in school history,” Jensen says — the principal also proffered that perhaps the most important trait of this year’s senior class “is the sense of resilience they have shown.” The loss of the two much-liked classmates was difficult to overcome, he said, but they honored the memory of their friends by making connections, building relationships, and dedicating themselves to excellence. “We lost two amazing friends,” said Senior Class President Hannah Sanderson. “We were able to help each other get through it together.” This year’s graduating class are champions in so many ways. They took honors in band, choir, orchestra and theater, among others events and activities. Senior August Burton was named a National Merit Scholar, every athletic team made the state playoffs, and the girls golf team and the girls track team won 5A state championship trophies. This year, the Chargers raised $58,000 for charity and seniors earned some $6.5 million in scholarships — and other offers are still trickling in, Jensen said, also adding that the school was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top five high schools in Utah. “You, as a Class of 2018, have left a legacy of accomplishments. No one is doubting your ability to succeed. In fact, we are counting on it,” he said. Senior Emily Arthur, who has been accepted to Utah State University’s Aggies Elevated program for students with intellectual disabilities, received a standing ovation after her remarks. She urged fellow graduates to never let anyone limit their potential. “It is time to dream a new dream” said Arthur, who has Down syndrome. “The sky is the limit.” The path to graduation hasn’t always been easy, said student speaker Hannah Trudo. However, she said, the tough times have turned the forward-looking seniors into a strong, capable generation. “We have survived the storms of our youth.” Now that the Chargers of 2018 have reached the touchstone of high school graduation, “it is our turn to go into the world and make our mark …. It is our turn to change the world,” said Tyler Miller. “High school is awkward,” he said. “But it gave me a home. It gave me a place to belong.”
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Diamond Ridge High School
There is an art to finding peace in disorder, a trick to remaining positive in the face of overwhelming negativity — and it’s as simple as choosing to buckle-down and get the job done. “Guess what you did? Guess what choice you made?” asked Canyons District Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe while addressing the graduates of Diamond Ridge High during their commencement ceremony. “You made a choice, a choice to improve yourself and not worry about what everyone else is doing or saying with all their negativity. And in so doing, you learned a valuable skill. You’ve learned what it takes to succeed.” Diamond Ridge with its small class sizes, and tight-knit staff and faculty, is a school of choice — increasingly, the school of choice — for students who yearn for an alternative to the conventional school environment. The school awarded diplomas to 40 students this year, about three times the number to cross the commencement stage in 2016. Students come to Diamond Ridge for different reasons, and face different obstacles to get there — some are the first in their family to graduate and enroll in college — but find unity in fighting for the future they know they deserve. “Pretty much all of us seniors had to give our all this year. Quite a few of us had a lot to do to get caught up, and it seemed pretty impossible,” said graduating senior Calena Slesser, the winner of this year’s Canyons Education Foundation Rising Star Scholarship. “But since we decided to give 100 percent, because we pushed ourselves, here we are graduating.” Slesser, who finished her final quarter with a 4.0 grade point average, enrolled in Diamond Ridge intent upon focusing on school, instead of friends or fun. “But I met some of my best friends here,” she said referring to the school’s tight-knit students and teachers. “Switching here was the best decision I could have made.” Presenting diplomas to the Class of 2018 were Dr. Briscoe, Principal Amy Boettger, Responsive Services Director BJ Weller, Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling, and Canyons Board of Education members Steve Wrigley and Clareen Arnold who praised graduates for their leadership and willingness to make sacrifices. “You are my perfect example of ‘do or do not, there is no try,’” Clareen said, referring to the Star Wars-themed class motto. “I want you to know that the Canyons Board of Education is very proud of Diamond Ridge. I’ve been here for three years and watched you grow, and I sit here in humble awe knowing what you’ve done, what you’ve gone through, and what you’ve accomplished.” Briscoe urged graduates to keep choosing success. “You already know what it’s like dealing with difficulty. You already know what it’s like when you’re not working as hard as you know you can. …The way you measure success is when people overcome obstacles. That’s how I measure it. Those are the people I want working for me. Because I know that those are the people, like you, who know how to get the job done.”
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Hillcrest High School
Hillcrest’s graduating class of 2018 filled the Maverik Center Tuesday, June 5, with the sounds of their Alma Mater. “Though someday we must leave you, our hearts will always thrill to the glory of your beauty on the crest of rolling hills,” they crooned with the crowd of parents, teachers and administrators who attended the celebration. Midvale Mayor Robert Hale and Canyons Board of Education members Steve Wrigley and Mont Millerberg, a Hillcrest alum, sang along as students cheered their way into their final celebration as Huskies. “You have taught me how to learn, how to lead, and how to be Husky strong,” Senior Class President Joshua Jessop told the audience as he reflected on the impact of Hillcrest’s longtime head football coach, Cazzie Brown, who died at the beginning of the school year. “Huskies have learned we can come together and mourn the loss of life and still be strong as one pack.” Hillcrest’s students have reason to grieve, but they also have cause for celebration. The class strengthened their community by donating $14,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, granting three wishes with the funds. Their achievements reflected a higher rigor and dedication that led to the class receiving 153 academic diplomas, and 159 honors diplomas. The school administered 954 Advanced Placement tests, 485 International Baccalaureate tests, and they earned 1,259 in college credits at Salt Lake Community College. The group contributed a combined total of 11,475 service hours to the school, and received scholarship offers in excess of $7.4 million. “Today we stand on the shoulders of generations who have gone before and done hard things,” Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt said. “We need another greatest generation to stand and deliver the next level of dignity the world is crying out for. I wonder if you really see that you are the great hope of the future. If not you, as the saying goes, then who?” As a graduate of Hillcrest’s class of 1968, Millerberg reminded the graduates of the importance of keeping a long-term perspective. He encouraged students to make wise choices that would allow them to enjoy life when they reach retirement age. “Life is short,” he said. “The choices you make will greatly impact your future. Enjoy what you have, enjoy your life. Don’t just survive, but thrive.”
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Jordan High School
The story of Jordan High’s class of 2018 can best be told through several pairs of unusual — but meaningful — shoes. Jordan Principal Wendy Dau brought a bag of boots, slippers and cleats to Tuesday’s ceremony to tell the tale of how far her students have come in their four-year endeavor. First, Dau paid homage to Tom Sherwood, former Jordan High principal, with an old, worn pair of boots to represent the work he invested in the students for three years. Next, she showed dance slippers from the dance and drill team, in recognition of the students’ vision and accomplishments through including members on the team with physical limitations. She held up a pair of cleats signed by the baseball team, and a pair of shoes with piano keys, in memory of a student-wide standing ovation offered at an assembly to a fellow student who plays the piano even though he is blind. “It is up to you to forge a new path as you go into the world,” Dau told the audience. “Wear whatever shoes you want to wear on that journey, your shoes and your Beetdigger heart will tell the story of the incredible journey you will go on.” Superintendent Jim Briscoe, and Canyons Board of Education members Nancy Tingey and Steve Wrigley — whose son was also part of the graduating class at Jordan — distributed the long-awaited diplomas at the event, which took place at the Maverik Center. The story of what this year’s graduating class has accomplished is one for the books. More than half of the class received scholarship offers totaling $4.6 million, 15 students graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, and one student, Daniel Ross, was selected as a National Merit Scholar finalist, which ranks him in the top one percent of all graduating high school students in the country. Together, the class earned 267 honors and advanced diplomas, 10 of which have a bi-literacy seal. In the fall, 82 percent of the class is registered to attend college, and 52 percent of the class has already earned college credits toward their next graduation. “The choice of what to do in life is now up to us,” Senior Class President Micah Paulsen told the audience. “After tonight we have the power to do whatever we want. Wherever we go, I hope we all remember to stay true to ourselves.” Briscoe had practical advice for the students to consider when making that choice. He told students to take care of their health, invest $25 in a mutual fund every month, choose a career that makes them happy and treat others with respect. “Wherever you are in life, take a step back,” Briscoe said. “Take a deep breath. Remind yourself who you are.”
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Jordan Valley School