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South Graduates 176 Seniors in 62nd Commencement
Led by Valedictorian William Highfill, Pueblo County’s lone Boettcher Scholar this school year, and Co-Salutatorians Olivia Arellano and Carlie Sweckard, the South High School Class of 2021 walked across the stage and into the future Friday evening at the Events Center.
The 176 Colts represent the school’s 62nd graduating class and the first under the leadership of Principal Mike Kovac.
“These fine students have contributed greatly to the tradition of excellence at South and represent something extra for South,” Principal Kovac said. “This class is a proud representation of the best that Pueblo has to offer, as they go forth and continue to serve and become a part of this community.”
In his address, Cody Purkett, Student Body President, classified his 4 years at South as “the best in my life” and praised the resilience of the graduating Colts.
“As a class, we have come together in unity to overcome the unforeseen circumstances that altered life around the world,” he said. “The adversity we experienced was immense, and the prime of our high school experience was completely taken away. However, we still gather here today eager to tackle the next chapter of our lives.
“If this hasn’t displayed the confidence, determination and virtue that this class possesses, then I really don’t know what will.”
William Highfill, who will be attending the University of Denver, delivered an impassioned address on the power of embracing oneself.
“Once I was able to love myself for who I was born to be, I was able to see that I was not alone in struggling to find my self identity in a world that endorses conformity,” William said. “Life teaches you countless lessons: the most difficult being how to love yourself. The hardest part about growing up is the complexity of our metamorphosis: understanding that we are not neglecting what makes us unique by embracing our person as a whole.
”My sexuality does not determine my self worth the same way the color of your skin, who you worship, the gender you identify with – or anything else unique to your person – determines if you are worthy of acceptance or not. I have discovered that it is imperative to cherish your uniqueness.”
Co-Salutatorian Oliva Arellano too addressed self discovery.
“The last 4 years have been spent discovering myself through involvement: because if I’m being honest, when I entered this phase of my life, I truly wondered where I fit in,” Oliva said. “The discovery that ensued led me to the realization that I hate the word ‘just’ – a four-letter word that hangs heavy over me.
“The word ‘just’ sets limitations that I found meaningless very early on. I wasn’t ‘just’ a cheerleader. I wasn’t ‘just’ a good student. I wasn’t ‘just’ heavily involved. I was, and am, a combination of all of the pieces that have been intricately woven into who I am.”
Like Olivia, Carlie Sweckard was active in a host of clubs and activities while at South.
“Life isn’t easy, and there are going to be hardships thrown our way,” Carlie said. “But all of us adapting to this year is why I can say with confidence that we will overcome the hardships we will face in life. I have learned from this year not to dwell on what was lost, but to cherish every moment.
“That is why it’s so important to cherish the little moments. Don’t be so wrapped up in the future that you forget to live in the present: because before you know it, time has passed, and you will wish for those moments back.”
The parents of the top 3 graduates, seated on the stage for the duration of the ceremony, presented each with a medallion and plaque in recognition of their high achievement. In return, the parents received a Colt-themed art piece as a token of appreciation.
The Class of 2021 was presented to D60 Board of Education President Taylor Voss, with the diplomas conferred by Principal Kovac, as graduates were acknowledged by Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso, Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Morey, and members of the D60 school board.
With the coveted Cannon directly in front of her, Senior Class President Madison Wallerstedt led the tassel change and spirited “senior yell.”
“For 4 years, we have overcome the coronavirus, global warming, virtual learning, facial acne. But despite all odds, here we are: ready to graduate,” Madison earlier told her classmates. “This Class of 2021 is filled with special individuals and I’m confident that we will thrive.”
In her time at the lectern, Key Club President Lindsey Crowell encouraged the Colts to remain committed to serving others.
“While we are currently thriving, there are others in the community still struggling,” Lindsey said. “I challenge us all: if we are able to overcome our own obstacles, we are able to help others with theirs. Our community has been struggling because of the events of the past year, so there’s more need for positivity than ever.”
Musical selections were provided by the South Choir Ensembles and the South Band. Senior members of the Choir closed the ceremony with a touching “Homeward Bound.”
Those Colts who will be serving in the military were honored by retired Lt. Col. Victor Vasquez, leader of South’s JROTC program. Singularly honored was Blake Harris, a South alumnus who gave his life in service to the country.
Collectively, the Class of 2021 earned $3.2 million in scholarships. Graduates will be attending Pueblo Community College, Colorado State University Pueblo, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado, University of Denver, Regis University and Lincoln School of Technology, among other institutions.
TOP 10 STUDENTS
William Highfill, Olivia Arellano, Carlie Sweckard, Abbey Strain, Cody Purkett, Gia Genova, Jillian Martellaro, Isabella Brown, Dayshia Martinez, Michayla DiRito Goff
GOLD CORD GRADUATES
William Highfill, Olivia Arellano, Carlie Sweckard, Abbey Strain, Cody Purkett, Gia Genova, Jillian Martellaro, Isabella Brown, Dayshia Martinez, Michayla DiRito Goff, Nikki Vasquez, Madison Wallerstedt, Kassandra Cuppy, Zoey Rodriguez, Makenzie Baca, Alicia Ortega, Mehak Singh, Hannah Graham, Margaret Wojan, Kaitlin Laughlin, Nicole Guarienti, Judith Nolasco, Costiana Aragon-Vasquez, Halle Herrera;
Geonna King, Angel Sandoval, Taryn Benavidez, Serenity LeGrand, Araylea Minjarez, Quinn Zabukovic, Krysten Perkins, Jackson Fair, Emilia Garcia, Luke Purkey, Isabella Arriaga, Paige Burgess, Taylor Pewitt, Anabella Berumen, Matthew Dohle, Sage Pennethy, Elizabeth Mahoney, Gregory Leber III, Alexandra Martinez, Layla Tran, A Neace Wofford.
SILVER CORD GRADUATES
Hannah Ogaz, Cody Telfer, Sierra Robinson, Hayden Gustafson, Destinee Valdez, Hannah Sin-Purnell, Leonard Oliva III, Lindsey Crowell, Ethan Quintana-Waggoner, Victoria Trujillo, Luke Guarienti, Katlyn Holcomb, Chloe Sisneros, Rebecca Johnson