2011 GCHS graduates encouraged to ‘Define your own success’
by Jeff Richards
contributing writer
Jun 16, 2011 | 4258 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the GCHS Class of 2011 are showered in confetti as they celebrate their graduation June 9. School district officials handed out diplomas to 92 students during this year’s ceremony. Photos by Jeff Richards
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“If you want to make a difference, define your own success,” commencement speaker Mike Bynum told Grand County High School’s graduating Class of 2011 on Thursday, June 9.

Bynum, a 1965 graduate of GCHS who went on to play and coach football in Colorado, worked there for many years as an attorney before returning to Moab several years ago. He currently serves as board chairman for Moab Valley Healthcare in addition to being a local business owner and a consultant.

“What goes around, comes around,” Bynum told the graduates, noting that the Zax Restaurant, which he now owns and operates, is located in the same building where he’d once worked as a teenager – Knowles’ hardware store.

Bynum said after his own high school graduation, he soon realized that the odds of him being able to change the world were slim.

“But to change the world around me was up to me,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Bynum, who has served as an assistant football coach for the Red Devils for the past few years, invited the graduating senior players to stand up and be recognized.

“I told these gentlemen that I would graduate with them this year, and they took me literally,” he said, referring to being invited to speak at the class graduation.

Bynum also highlighted communication and teamwork as being two of the most valuable lessons he took from his high school days.

“Do what you do with passion,” Bynum told the graduates. “When in doubt, go for it. Don’t let the fear of failure ruin your life.”

Class valedictorian Bettymaya Foott and salutatorian Merina Toninelli also spoke during the ceremony, and their speeches highlighted the class theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” taken from the title of a Dr. Seuss book.

Toninelli cited several triumphs and tragedies the group has experienced over the years, and noted, “We’ve had the privilege of living in a community that cares for one another.”

Toninelli also said she hopes that the friendships shared among her classmates “will carry on in the future, no matter how many directions we go.”

In her speech, Foott invited her classmates to reminisce with her.

“Let’s take a look back before we leave,” she said, before playfully rattling off a number of humorous anecdotes, catch phrases, and inside jokes related to the group’s shared school experiences.

Foott also thanked many of the school faculty members by name and mused about the possible future careers of many of her classmates, including imagining Joseph Hawks as an underwear model.

“Edye Baker will sell drugs... in her pharmacy!” Foott added, drawing laughs from the crowd.

“On a scale of one to 10, we’re an 11!” exclaimed an exuberant Foott. “Can I get a hoo-rah?”

Also during the ceremony, Grand County School District Superintendent Margaret Hopkin honored a total of six retiring Grand County School District employees for their service, including longtime GCHS teacher and counselor Peggy Nissen, who worked at the school a total of 31 years. A teary-eyed Nissen received a standing ovation from the graduates and audience members. Other retirees who were recognized were GCHS office secretary Sherry Mathson, GCHS family and consumer science teacher Deanna Mecham, middle school science teacher Jeri MacTaggart, bus driver Paul Drake, and first-grade teacher Susan Fullmer. Fullmer was unable to attend the ceremony.

Another highlight of the program was the prestigious “Circle of Honor” awards, which were presented this year by GCHS athletic director Ron Dolphin. The first award went to former grocery store manager Gene Cary, who passed away in 1996. Cary was lauded for his tireless and generous support of school sports and activities over the years. The award was accepted by Cary’s son, Bill.

The second Circle of Honor award was presented to longtime educator and coach Bernie Radcliffe. Despite retiring a couple of years ago, Radcliffe has continued to help out at the high school, including as a part-time photography teacher.

“I’ve been encircled by good and honorable people,” Radcliffe said. “My charge to you is to include good and honorable people in your circle. And with that, the places you’ll go will be immeasurable.”

Other highlights of the evening included musical performances by the GCHS band and the Sounds Grand school choir, under the direction of Ryan Morrill. Local Boy Scout Troop 804 led off the evening with the Pledge of Allegiance.

After the evening’s speeches concluded, GCHS Principal Stephen Hren then presented the 92 graduates to the school board and superintendent. Each graduate then walked through the ceremonial letter “G” to receive his or her diploma. There weren’t any fireworks at the end of the ceremony this year, but the graduates sprayed silly string as confetti cannons showered the group with bits of red and white paper.

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