SSHS seniors prepare for next step with graduation behind them |

SSHS seniors prepare for next step with graduation behind them

Students celebrate after officially being announced as graduates during the 2015 Steamboat Springs High School class graduation on Saturday
Austin Colbert

— Amid the smiles, jokes and general festiveness of Saturday’s Steamboat Springs High School class of 2015 graduation inside a packed Kelly Meek gymnasium, there was a lot of fear.

There was doubt about what had been accomplished and about what lies ahead. And it was for this reason Todd Musselman, the honorary presenter, spoke to the 155 graduating seniors about overcoming this fear and using it to their advantage.

“There’s a lot of things we can do with fear. We can be used by fear, and we can use fear,” Musselman said after acknowledging his own nervousness about giving the speech. “I’ve noticed the people that live full and happy lives tend to love risk, and they are OK with failure. They get that failure is just something to learn from.”

Musselman — a musician, life coach, longtime Steamboat resident and 1986 Colorado State University graduate — told the excited and anxious graduates the story of how his life changed. A talented athlete, Musselman’s career ended in his 20s when he dislocated his ankle, severing two arteries in the process. He spent the next nine months on crutches, a period that began in mourning over what he had lost, but ended with him finding something better.

“In one moment, my whole life changed. For 20-some years, I was an athlete, and then, in one moment, I wasn’t anymore. What do I do now?” Musselman reflected. “I went over to get something out of my closet and came out with a new life.”

What he found in the closet was his old guitar, upon which he could only play about three chords. But over the months — which turned into years — with his injury keeping him off his feet, Musselman learned to play. Between this discovery and a little encouragement from his mother, his days moping over his former life were over, and his new life had begun.

“Accepting what is is the most difficult thing we do as human beings … your life is exactly as it should be in this moment because it can’t be any other way,” Musselman told the SSHS students. “Those nine months were some of the best nine months of my life. Not so much for my parents. They are still in therapy. I was so bad for so long. But I got better.”

The theme of overcoming fear and venturing into the unknown was reflected in the speeches of 2015 SSHS graduates William Gunn and Norma Techarukpong, the distinguished student speakers at Saturday’s graduation. Gunn compared the future to building a sand castle and creating a future of one’s own making — with a laugh or two mixed in for good measure.

“For the first time in our lives we get to make decisions, have new experiences and go to better parties, right? Who would have thought life actually gets better after high school?” Gunn joked. “It will be hard at first. We do live in one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places in the world. But, I expect all of you will have the chance to experience what other parts of the world are like, because they will make you appreciate this paradise we call home.”

Gunn is one of Steamboat High’s most distinguished graduates this year. He plans to attend Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where he was awarded a $28,000 Merit and Music scholarship. Techarukpong, who graduated summa cum laude, plans to attend the University of Vermont, where she is set to receive a $16,000 presidential scholarship from the university.

Her message was mostly about embracing the now, comparing life to the excitement and dread of being on a roller coaster as it prepares to plummet toward earth.

“Live for now, because right now is the best moment of our lives,” Techarukpong told the crowd. “On the first day of high school, I was caught up in what was to come next. I wasn’t living in the present. Instead, I was focusing on the future, just as many of us are today. But today gives us the opportunity to live this moment and enjoy it as high school seniors and soon to be graduates.”

Of the 155 graduates, it was said 73 percent plan to attend a four-year college or university in the fall in 22 different states, while five are pledged to the armed services.

All told, the 2015 class is set to receive as much as $900,000 in merit-based scholarships over the next four years.

“Be impulsive, have an open mind and smile every day,” Gunn said as a final piece of advice for his fellow graduates. “I’m sure that each and every one of us will make an impact on the world in our own way … all of you seem to care about our future.”

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.