Park City High School graduation a celebration of resilience |

Park City High School graduation a celebration of resilience

Seniors laud collaborative spirit

For the complete photo gallery from the 2021 Park City High School graduation, click here.

Park City High School celebrated its Class of 2021 Thursday at a jovial outdoor ceremony at the North 40 fields, with a common theme running through every address: gratitude.

Each of the students who spoke during the ceremony mentioned their gratitude to the community and school for the work they did to get through the past 15 months as COVID-19 loomed.

“We have to thank the administration, teachers, staff and city leaders who did so much to ensure school went on during the pandemic with minimal disruption,” said co-valedictorian Ali Aldous. “Compared to so many districts across the nation that never opened for in-person learning.”

Most of all, however, they expressed gratitude for each other.

“Collectively, we’ve been through it,” Aldous said. “Many have described our class over the years as supportive, kind, collaborative and understanding, traits that were heightened as we navigated this pandemic. I think we’ve all grown so much.”

The other co-valedictorian Drew Neff said there is a deep sense of community among the Class of 2021, and he fondly remembered all the times the graduates helped each other make it through the past year.

“The results of our collaborations will always be far greater than anything we can do alone,” he said. “I hope as we move forward we continue to rely on those bonds and recognize the strength of our mutual support.”

PCHS Principal Roger Arbabi, too, expressed his gratitude. First and foremost, he said, he wanted to thank the parents who trusted the district with the safety of their children over the past year. It’s been a “Herculean effort” to keep the doors open, he said, adding that everyone at the district and in the community deserves credit.

“And to the seniors, I have so much gratitude for you because you took the mitigation strategies seriously and helped us keep our school open,” he said.

Arbabi shared some impressive statistics about the 400 students who make up the class of 2021. About 21% of them are considered first-generation students, he said, and of that group, 63% will be attending either a two-year or four-year college. Of the total class, 80% will be attending a two-year or four-year college, at 120 different colleges or universities. Collectively, the graduates earned about $14.4 million in scholarships.

Arbabi said they all learned the value of flexibility over the past year, of meeting new challenges and adversity and altering their paths when needed. That’s a skill that will serve the Class of 2021 well as they move forward, he said.

“Remember there is no single path to happiness and success,” he said. “You will need to pivot from time to time. Be ready.”

Brittney Serena Mellin and Roxanne Alexandria Venegas Taracena, co-presidents of the student group Latinos in Action, shared their thoughts on the past year and what it meant to them. Taracena said she is one of about 100 in her class to be the first in their families to graduate high school.

“Latinos can be writers, teachers, leaders, speakers and dreamers,” she said.

Mellin said she is the third of her siblings to graduate from Park City High School, and she said she has learned over the past year to take pride in her bilingualism and biculturalism.

“I used to think they would preclude my success but now I realize they are powerful assets,” she said.

Mellin said the Class of 2021 stood strong in the face of extraordinary circumstances, and said the graduates are like “roses that grow from concrete.”

Student Body President Cooper Strople, who peppered his speech liberally with quotations from children’s movies and said he has done so in every address he’s given during his time at Park City High School, jokingly requested that everyone in the audience record his speech and post it to social media.

“That will increase my chances of going viral and really help me a lot,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I learned that in AP Stats.”

Strople said the year of living under COVID-19 taught his class the value of things like conversations with friends in the lunchroom and seeing each others’ smiles as they pass in the hallway, and not to take them for granted.

“We faced something generations before us never could have imagined,” he said.

Strople said the Class of 2021 has learned how to thrive in the face of adversity.

“We’ve learned to work through the problems that face us, no matter how big or small,” he said. “We’re standing at the edge of the water and it’s time to dive right in. We’re ready.”

Senior Class President Meghan Buchholz called the Class of 2021 “the strongest and most resilient Park City High School has ever seen.” She shouted out some of her classmates who are going to Ivy League schools and military academies, but she said the entire class deserves applause.

“We pushed through the most important years of our lives with indescribable obstacles along the way,” she said. “We’ve been through hell and back these past four years and I am in awe of how the Class of 2021 has grown. We just proved that we do not give up, we do not stop fighting and through it all we have each other.”

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