The graduates filed in to the white lawn chairs to begin the ceremony and hear from their fellow graduating Miners. PCHS Principal Bob O'Connor said the race between valedictorian and salutatorian came down to one one-hundredth of a grade point, and Zachary Laufer emerged victorious.
While Eleanor Burton came in second, she was the first to speak words of encouragement to her classmates. She did so by describing the last four years as a race, from kicking off the starting line freshman year to setting the pace sophomore year, running with the pack junior year and digging deep and pushing ahead to the finish line senior year.
"We have crossed many finish lines throughout our lives, and there are many more ahead, each one a result of our own ambitions, hopes and dreams," she said. "As you encounter each of your personal races, keep in mind the insightful words of Eleanor Roosevelt: 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.'"
Laufer took his time at the podium to address the disappointment his classmates may face in the future when it comes to receiving a payoff at the end of a hard day's work. After being rejected from Duke, Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan, he felt as though he was not being granted what felt was earned, he said, but he was still rewarded by being accepted to the University of Southern California. However, he told his classmates it was their responsibility to push past the hardships and make the world a better place.
"Much like Reagan tore down the walls of communism, it is now our job to tear down the walls that limit our potential," he said. "We have a responsibility to go out and improve the world and pull it into the future. So in the words of Ronald Reagan, 'Let's make America great again.'"
Seniors on the PCHS drum line, William J. Schumacher and Jessie J. Smith, along with PCHS music teacher Bret Hughes, masterfully performed a piece called "Triskaidekaphobia," a testament to the remarks O'Connor then made about the accomplishments of his seniors.
O'Connor said when ski season comes around, parents of visiting families often call and ask if their children can attend PCHS the following year.
To that, O'Connor responds that PCHS offers 24 Advanced Placement courses and has been awarded the title of Top Performing AP School in the State by Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert for the last two years. The athletic clubs at the high school won 10 state championships this year, and more than 30 students received scholarships to continue playing sports in college.
The Academic Decathlon team has won the state championship 19 out of the last 21 years, the Gay-Straight Alliance was named the National GSA of the Year by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Future Business Leaders of America Club is sending students to the national competition in Tennessee next month.
For students interested in the arts, the PCHS jazz band won their division at the Reno Jazz Festival, the percussion ensemble won a national competition and performed in New Orleans for 6,000 school board members from across the country and the marching band has been invited to participate in 11 parades this summer.
When parents ask where graduates attending college, O'Connor said he will now ask parents, "Where in North American would you like your child to go to college?" He went on to list all the college and trade schools the class of 2014 will be attending in the fall, institutions in almost every state in the country. Students will also be serving Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missions in Japan, Korea, Honduras, North Carolina, Louisiana, Chile and Mexico.
"As individual students, you will develop a new identity with your new college mascot, but always remember you were once a Miner," O'Connor said, concluding his speech by paraphrasing fellow faculty member, Maureen Amendola. "While accepting the Doilney Barnes Excellence in Education Award this year, she looked at her students and said, 'Working and watching my students mature and grow is my reward.' Thank you, class of 2014, for being my reward."
Park City Board of Education President Moe Hickey accepted the graduates and conferred the diplomas PCHS teachers Matt Nagel and Ryan Miller handed to the seniors. While administrators looked unhappy to see the students bouncing a beach ball back and forth to each other, families and friends in the audience cheered them on.
After a disconcerted PCHS Assistant Principal Bob Edmiston deflated the ball and the graduates had all received their diplomas, Senior Class President Sariah Folau took the podium to tell her classmates how amazing she thought they all were.
"We are the ones that defeated a tardy policy, survived senioritis and were able to bring in beach balls when we weren't supposed to," she said, laughing. "Enjoy your journey. I know that's cheesy, but I really like cheese."
Student Body President Sean Kinsman concluded by saying the ceremony belonged to their parents, teachers and community for helping them reach the field for graduation. "It's not goodbye but rather 'I'll see you when I see you,'" he said.
Kinsman and his classmates retreated to the bleachers on the opposite side of Dozier Field to ceremoniously throw their graduation caps up in celebration before receiving congratulatory hugs on the football field from their families and friends.
"We have all worked really hard to get to this point, and it's great to finally be done," said William J. Schumacher, who will be attending Berkley College of Music in the fall to study production and sound design. "Park City has prepared me amazingly, because it is such an incredible community and I feel so blessed to have all the opportunities I've had."