Yampa Valley High School’s Class of 2023 ready to take the next step in life’s journey
A crowd gathered at the Yampa River Botanic Park on Friday, May 26, to celebrate the work of the nine graduates in Yampa Valley High School’s Class of 2023.
“It is a great day,” said Liam Kennish, a graduating senior who spoke at the commencement. “It’s just another step in this journey of life.”
The graduating seniors were joined by their families, friends, classmates and the teachers and administration who helped guide the students through high school.
Kennish said he became frustrated with the more traditional classes offered in middle school, and he shifted his education to online classes. He then decided to return to regular classes after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted following the onset of the pandemic.
“In middle school, I was considering completely leaving school,” Kennish said. “But then I realized I had great amounts of raw talent that I just needed to use, realize and actualize.”
Kennish came back to classes at the Yampa Valley High School. The past few years he has also been taking classes at Colorado Mountain College, and he is already looking forward to another graduation next year with an associate degree.
He hasn’t set a timeline, but Kennish is hoping to join his brother where they can use their talents as a writer and creator to produce comic books, and potentially turn novels into animations, as well as see the visualization of their ideas.
Kennish spoke at the ceremony along with his classmate Kaylea Mielke, who will become the first member of her family to go to college.
“Honestly, I had a huge fight with mental health, so just making it to this day means everything to me,” Mielke said. “I’m going go to Colorado Mountain College for a year to finish up my associate degree and then transfer to Colorado State University.”
Karla Setter, principal of Yampa Valley High School, said graduation ceremonies are a great reason to celebrate, but they also serve as fuel to motivate students, teachers and even principals on some of the more challenging days during the school year.
“When we go through hard days at Valley High School — the days when it I feels like a struggle — I think about the ceremony and what it feels like to support the kids to reach this milestone, how personable the ceremony feels and how meaningful it is,” Setter said. “It gives me hope through the hard days that we are going to make it.”
On Friday, the nine students who have learned and grown at Yampa Valley High School took the first steps in the next journey in their lives, knowing that their experience at the school has helped give them the knowledge they will need to be successful.
“Switching to Yampa Valley High School is the best decision I could have made,” Mielke said. “I think everybody should suffer a year at the big high school, but ultimately our school is the best school, and I would not be here without it.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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