The Jefferson High School gymnasium buzzed with excitement as at least 400 family members and friends gathered to celebrate JHS’s 55 graduating students of 2021. The cloudy skies and forty degree chill, or even the sleet falling outside, couldn’t dampen this parade.  

The audience and students alike had wide smiles and teary eyes. The past year had been anything but easy on these students, and the gymnasium — Plan B after a planned outdoor ceremony was shifted due to the less than springlike weather — was filled with a tangible air of relief as well as strength and gratitude.

Salutatorian Abigail Youde opened the ceremony eliciting laughs all around, delivering a witty speech and speaking with excitement about the “endless opportunities” that lie ahead. Valedictorian Hope Dobyns followed Youde, speaking of the great impact JHS has had on her life.

“This year has taught us so much about friendship, loyalty, and love,” Dobyns said.

Following these speeches, an appreciation video for the class of ‘21 played, filled with pictures and videos of the graduates. Cries and claps grew loud from the audience, and graduates covered their faces with embarrassment as the video revealed baby pictures of each student.

History teacher and coach Cody Ottman spoke next, encouraging students to be “proud to represent [Jefferson County] even if [they] move far away.” He explained that the class of 2021 is special to him as it is the first class that he has seen all the way through high school. 

“If you laugh, you think, you cry, that’s a full day,” he told the students, “and if you ever need anything, myself and the staff [of JHS] are here for you.”

After celebrating those who had received scholarships, each student picked up roses and gave them to family members, showing their love and gratitude. Few eyes were dry in the auditorium.

Jordan Martin, brother of graduate Hayden Miller, said that this has been a “wonderful, crazy year. Graduating high school is the first hardest thing you have to do.” 

Valedictorian Dobyns added that graduating felt “surreal.” She said: “I’m very excited for what comes next,” which in her case is Grand Canyon University.

Connie McCauley, who taught many of the graduates in kindergarten as well as junior high, said that it felt “bittersweet” to see all of them graduate. 

“[The graduates] had to be flexible,” said Ottman after the ceremony. “They had to roll with the flow and they overcame it in the end.”

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