For 18-year-old Cory Nystrom, graduating from Santa Fe High School means he has secured a future for himself.
"It's an accomplishment. Without a diploma, I can't move on. Without
it, I can't join the Army," he said Wednesday morning as he lined up in
the gym at Santa Fe High School in preparation for the school's
In November, Nystrom will join the U.S. Army and train to become a
radio technician. After his tour of duty, he intends to utilize the
military's GI Bill to further his education.
Nystrom is one of about 270 seniors who graduated from the school
Wednesday in a ceremony in which commencement speakers reiterated the
need for these young people to never give up and to always take
responsibility for their lives and for the world.
"Today is the day your adult life begins," said district
Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez to the assembly of students gathered on
the school's athletic field, where the ceremony was held. A high school
diploma, she said, gives them "a basis for so many opportunities."
The event was relatively subdued compared to the past few years,
when seniors boisterously released inflated beach balls on the field,
interrupting speakers' comments and adding unexpected antics to the mix.
The seniors in the 2012 class sat quietly during the roughly 90-minute
As the students lined up in the gym before the formality, their
faces displayed hope, relief, tears and in some cases a lack of sleep.
Graduate Lynette Bustos, 18, who is in the top 10 percent of her class,
said this day means "I really get to start my life." She is heading off
to The University of New Mexico to study both art and psychology.
Her family has roots in New Mexico going back some time, she said,
and her parents, Elmer and Joyce, are "super, super excited for today."
Valedictorian Gemma Johnson departs for Bryn Mawr College, a women's
liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, at summer's end to study biology.
She recalled her freshman class as being one of the largest and noted
that her graduating class was, in comparison, quite small.
She recalled in her public remarks to the class that when she
started at the school four years ago, she was so afraid she would get
lost on the vast campus that she made a map to retrace her steps.
"These are the people who have helped me find my personality," she said of her student peers.
In her speech, salutatorian Hannah McCarthy, 17, acknowledged "all
of my teachers ... who got me to this point." Learning, she told the
crowd, is "a way of navigating your own experience." She will attend
Whitman College in Washington state to study math and psychology.
Keynote speaker Barbara Salas, city of Santa Fe fire chief and a
Santa Fe High School graduate, encouraged the students to be prepared to
redefine themselves as they grow. She spoke of overcoming her own
hardships and challenges as she pursued a career as a firefighter.
"You will face many obstacles in your life, but you cannot allow yourself to be one of them," she said.
Principal Robert Stevens, who has worked at Santa Fe High for five
years, leaves at the end of this semester to pursue a master's degree at
New Mexico State University. He will be succeeded by Assistant
Principal Leslie Romero-Kilmer.
Capital High School's graduation ceremony takes place at 9 a.m. Thursday on the athletic field at its campus on Paseo del Sol.
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