Park City High School graduates say bonds will linger
Class of 2017 will be remembered for achievement, students say
On the final day of class, as they donned red, black and white one last time as Park City High School students, the Class of 2017 reflected on the people and the place that had shaped them.
They were moments away from crossing the final barrier between their adolescence and the rest of their lives. They waited in the gymnasium as the crowd of parents and community members swelled in the stands at Dozier Field.
The day they had worked toward for years had come, and the graduates were ready to charge headfirst into their futures. For one more day, though, they were Miners, and they pondered what, exactly, that meant.
For one thing, said salutatorian Bryan Croce, it meant sharing a bond that will last long after the memories of Friday night football games and Monday morning math tests become grainy and faded. In an address during the commencement ceremony, he illustrated that the link transcends even categories like race and social cliques. He delivered his speech in Spanish and shared the podium with fellow senior Nayely Velazquez, president of the school’s Latinos in Action club, who translated his speech to English.
Croce spoke about how he and Velazquez didn’t know each other when they started high school. They didn’t hang out in the same social circles and had no idea about their shared interests. But they eventually became friends and ultimately grew close because they could appreciate each other’s differences.
Back in the gymnasium before his speech, Croce said students throughout the class had similar experiences. And they won’t soon forget the people who made their high school careers special.
“It’s interesting that there are kids here who I’ve spoken to maybe once or twice in four years here and also people that I’ve opened up and shared everything with,” he said. “But there’s that kinship with both and I think that’s something really special.”
Apart from the bonds they formed, the Class of 2017 by all accounts will also be connected by its accomplishments. The graduates were part of clubs and teams that won numerous region and state championships, and they helped the school re-enter the national academic rankings as one of the best in Utah.
Scanning the gymnasium, Beau Williamson noted how the commencement robes of nearly all his classmates included honors cords signifying a career grade-point average of 3.5 or better. For some, achieving that level of academic success came easily. For others like Williamson, though, it was possible only through four years of determination.
“I worked ridiculously hard,” he said. “I don’t know how many nights I’ve stayed up working at homework and doing everything like that. The amount of work everyone here has put in to be here is pretty crazy.”
Marissa Zanetti added that being part of a class that accomplished so much was motivating. She had always wanted to do well in school and her goal of attending college was never in doubt, but she tried even harder because she knew her peers were setting a high bar.
“I know that if I went to a different school, I definitely wouldn’t have done as much,” she said. “The standards here are a lot higher than most schools.”
The graduates weren’t the only ones impressed by their collective accomplishments. Bob O’Connor, principal of PCHS, said he has enjoyed watching them grow, and he’s thrilled at the diverse colleges they’ll be attending across the country.
He was quick to note that it wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of countless people throughout the Park City School District. Graduation day, then, was a celebration for everyone, from high school administrators to kindergarten teachers.
“There are a bunch of elementary school teachers who come each year to see these kids graduate,” he said. “With the number of kids that we have achieving at such a high level, you have to give credit to those elementary teachers. Kids don’t walk in here ready to be a National Merit Scholar without some preparation.”
By the end of the ceremony, diplomas had been dispensed, tassels had been flipped and caps had been tossed into the blue sky. After more than a decade of school and three years at Park City High School, the graduates had looked back on where they’d come one last time and were now prepared to face what comes next.
Williamson, for one, said the things they’ve learned in Park City have made them ready to change the world.
“I know what this entire class is capable of,” he said. “Some of these kids already have their future dialed in. These are some of the smartest kids I’ve ever met.”
For more photos from the Park City High School 2017 commencement ceremony, visit http://photos.parkrecord.com/2017/06/12/photos-park-citys-class-of-2017/.
Park City High School Class of 2017
Data courtesy of the Park City School District
Total graduates: 393
Graduation rate: 97.7