Kindness of Soroco seniors leaves lasting mark for commencement speaker |

Kindness of Soroco seniors leaves lasting mark for commencement speaker

Austin Colbert
Soroco High School valedictorian Kellen Garrity addresses the audience during the Soroco High School graduation on Saturday
Austin Colbert

— When Oak Creek’s Julie Hoff rolled her vehicle this winter, she learned a lot about the students at Soroco High School. While she somehow escaped without injury, it didn’t stop the kids from showing concern for the former middle school teacher.

“Before the fire truck had even gotten there, one of the seniors had stopped and asked if I was OK,” Hoff said. “They were all really concerned and cared about what had happened.”

Hoff, who now works in concurrent enrollment for Colorado Northwestern Community College and sees the Soroco students on a daily basis, had been heading back to the high school after helping her daughter’s class at the elementary school the day of her accident. As it happened, that was also the day the Soroco students had asked her to be their commencement speaker for graduation.

Fast forward more than two months to Saturday’s 2015 class graduation inside the Soroco High School gymnasium, and there stood Hoff in front of the 25 graduating seniors, where she told them a story about kindness.

“I’m really close to those kids. I feel a real connection with that class of kids. It’s just true — they are really good. They care about each other, and they care about their families, and they care about their community,” Hoff said.

“They just care a lot, and that’s what struck me about them. I just wanted them to know that matters. All of the things about success are great, but it matters how you treat each other.”

While Hoff’s message was about caring for each other, the students had other words of encouragement for their fellow graduates. Class valedictorian Kellen Garrity talked about moving on and escaping the safety net that can be life in high school.

Garrity, who will attend Colorado State University to study biomedical engineering, is graduating with a 4.2 grade-point average and already has 46 hours of college credits.

“I think I kind of wanted people to know they can start over now. This is a new beginning for everybody. We can all live our own life, and it’s time to follow our own dreams. Nobody else is in charge anymore,” Garrity said. “It was amazing. It was definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve known so many of these kids since I was born, and it’s just great to be able to start together and finish together.”

Garrity is one of five Soroco seniors graduating with at least a 4.0 GPA. Also reaching that milestone were Micah Gibbons, Jessica Rossi, Michelle Ondreika and class salutatorian Brooke Green. All told, the 2015 Soroco graduating class will receive more than $136,000 in scholarship money.

Green, a future radiology student at Colorado Mesa University, was among the 12 students set to receive scholarship money next year. Her speech mirrored some of the same messages as Garrity’s, with an added emphasis on working hard.

“I just wanted it to be that we are moving on, and we need to make who we are and just work hard. Work hard to achieve what you want,” Green said. “Emotional, exciting, nerve-racking … I was very nervous to give the speech. I’ve been with most of these people for 13 years, since kindergarten, so this is our final goodbye. It’s emotional, for sure.

“I’m definitely glad it’s over with. But now we are moving on to bigger, better, harder things.”

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