The nearly 200 Woodland Park High School graduates who came together on May 23 at the Pikes Peak Center celebrated the school’s 79th commencement with the whimsy that has become a school tradition. Where other schools treat commencement exercises as a solemn occasion with nothing but “pomp and circumstance,” Woodland Park graduates keep the “pomp” but add an interpretation of “circumstance” all their own.
Senior class president Amanda Matthews left them with “live long and prosper,” salutatorian Anne Fisher brought out her accordion but didn’t play it, valedictorian Bryce Hickam talked about their future wearing a blue cap with Mickey Mouse ears and keynote speaker teacher and world-class marathon runner Matt Levassiur told them to be careful about the “one-liners” they choose in life.
Superintendent Jed Bowman gave the students three pieces of advice: “listen to your inner voice and choose to do right, treat all people with dignity and respect and be happy for summer.’” Every time any of the commencement speakers said “class of 2014” the students broke out their noisemakers, beach balls and balloons.
When Principal Del Garrick handed out diplomas, most of the students gave him parting gifts. In previous years, the gifts might have been hula hoops or bags of sand. This year it was ties, both straight and bows, a sash, a box of bowtie pasta (uncooked), a hat, boutonnieres, a mask and even a chicken nugget. Many of the students stopped to take a “selfie” with Garrick.
In the end they left the stage singing “Best Day of My Life” by Jesse McCartney with the audience. Rain and flash-flood warnings closed U.S. 24 until about 11:20 p.m., delaying the trip home for the more than 2,000 people who attended the commencement.