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Congratulations CSD Graduates…The Adventure Begins!

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With each passing school year, Canyons District sends another class of high school graduates into the world to pursue their passions. It’s with some sadness, tempered with excitement for what’s to come, that we say our goodbyes. As with all rites of passage, commencement season is a reminder of the impermanence of life with all its changes and challenges. So, at ceremonies filled with “pomp and circumstance,” we encourage students to embrace the now and the unknown as they begin writing the first chapter of their story—a story only they can tell. Congratulations, Class of 2017. In the words of the immortal Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry.”


Entrada High

Entrada graduationAfter years of facing challenges, hard work, and dreams of a high school diploma, Entrada’s class of 2017 couldn’t wait to for graduation to finish at Jordan High School on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Students from Canyons School District’s adult high school sat on stage in the Beetdiggers' auditorium as they looked out at an audience full of friends and family members and listened to keynote speaker Peter Metcalf, founder of the outdoor equipment company Black Diamond. “I have great admiration for the tenacity displayed by all of you,” Metcalf said. “I see in you that the impossible has been done.” Metcalf told the students about his own life’s story, as he was raised in New York City and had limited access to the wilderness until he started hitchhiking to the Catskill mountains when he was a teenager. Those who are successful in life see challenges as an opportunity, Metcalf said. “The greater the number of challenges to be dealt with, the greater the achievement,” he said. One student described the sacrifices she made to be able to receive her diploma. As a single, teenage mother, Claudia Calata dropped out of high school to take care of her baby. As she had more children, she realized she needed to achieve her goal of graduating high school, so she rearranged her work schedule and went back to school. It took her three tries, and she missed more than a few of her children’s soccer games and dance recitals, but on Tuesday night, she accomplished her dream. “Even though it was really hard, I did it,” Calata told the crowd. “I have accomplished this and now I believe I can accomplish many more things.” Entrada teachers, Principal Amy Boettger, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie and Canyons Board of Education representative Clareen Arnold celebrated the graduating class of nearly 250 students with brief remarks as the auditorium clapped and cheered. “You are our inspiration,” Boettger said. “With hard work you can and just did achieve great things.”


Hillcrest High

This year’s top dogs at Hillcrest High are ready for the next great adventure. The Class of 2017, full of promise and energy, walked across the graduation stage on Tuesday, June 6, at the Maverik Center. But that doesn’t mean the outgoing students will ever stop considering themselves Huskies. “I would like you to take pride in being Huskies,” Student Body President Stockton Ashby told his fellow graduates after noting the past year’s academic, artistic and athletic accomplishments. For example, he said, school earned a berth in the state football playoffs, advanced to the semifinal game in 4A boys’ basketball for the first time in more than a decade, won state theater and cheer awards, and cheered for a category winner of the Sterling Scholar Awards. There many other achievements, he said, that were earned despite difficulties. “There are incredible stories of kids at Hillcrest. So many of you have been through things that I cannot imagine. But you’re here to graduate today, and I respect you for that.” Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt, who performed a charming song for the graduates during his address, noted that this year’s group of seniors is Hillcrest’s 55th graduating class. Hillcrest’s proud tradition of excellence was embraced by this class, he said, announcing that nearly $5.2 million in scholarship offers had been extended to the Class of 2017. Twelve students earned a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school, six students were named semi-finalists in the National Merit Scholar competition, and the Huskies collectively contributed 15,475 hours of service. Leavitt urged the students not to seek fame and recognition, but to instead life your life based on “what is the right thing to do.” Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe also urged the students to carefully weigh their next moves. They will be faced with “subtle but critical decisions” as they start their new journeys as a high school graduate. He advised students to take care of their health, save $25 a month for the duration of their careers, be passionate about the careers they choose, treat people with respect, and give back to their communities. Mont Millerberg, a member of the Board of Education and an alumnus of Hillcrest, thanked the students for advancing the school’s strong legacy. When he walked across the stage in the auditorium to receive his high school diploma in 1968, “I was proud to be a Hillcrest Husky,” he said, “and I will tell you that I am still proud to be a Hillcrest Husky.” See more on Facebook. 

Brighton High 

Brighton14 300The Bengals are roaring toward a bright future. The Brighton High Class of 2017, one of the most accomplished groups of graduates in school history, was cheered for their myriad accomplishments during Tuesday, June 6 graduation rites at the Maverik Center. Brighton Principal Charisse Hilton, who was lauded by Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe as “the Bengal with the most pride,” noted that this year’s graduates earned a whopping $8.28 million in scholarship offers. The outgoing seniors, who were clad in orange and blue robes for the ceremony, also were members of state-championship winning teams in tennis, swimming, lacrosse, hockey, and girls basketball, among others. Of the 439 graduates, 85 percent earned the unique-the-Canyons District Advanced or Honors Diplomas, which signify a more rigorous course load than is required by Utah; six earned Academic All-State honors; 31 seniors scored a 30 or higher on the ACT college-entrance exam; 77 are on track to earn a Regents Scholarship; and students have been accepted to such prestigious institutions of higher learning as Stanford, Dartmouth, University of North Carolina, and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Hilton praised the graduates for their tenacity and dedication. Some students faced homelessness. Others overcame learning disabilities. More than a few coped with the tragic passing of friends. “Every one of you persevered,” she said. “The point is, you did it. You did it … You now carry with you diplomas that are from one of the best high schools in the state.” Class President Lauren Johnson and senior Catherine Good encouraged the graduates to draw from the lessons they learned at Brighton and to not be afraid of making mistakes as they pursue endless opportunities, be they in college, the workforce, the U.S. Armed Forces or church service. “Remember who you are and where you came from,” Johnson told her fellow graduates. “Together, we make up a great legacy … Remember: we are one.” Amber Shill, 2nd Vice President of the Canyons Board of Education, urged the graduates to remember simple but profound pieces of advice. Shill advised them to eschew holding grudges; remain positive; avoid worrying about things they cannot control; and be honest, grateful and a loyal friend. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, she also encouraged them to pursue their passions. See more on Facebook.


Jordan High

jordan300.jpgThey’ve paid their dues, time after time. They’ve completed their schooling, learned to reason and rhyme. And mistakes? If they’ve made a few, in the eyes of Principal Tom Sherwood, Jordan High’s 428 graduating seniors have come through. Per tradition, Sherwood delivered his 2017 commencement address in song, an altered version of Queen’s iconic rock anthem, “We are the Champions.” Though slightly off-key, the performance delighted students who joined the chorus, filling the Maverik Center with joyful noise. It wouldn’t have been a proper Beetdigger send-off without Sherwood’s musical stylings, especially considering this will be his last as Jordan’s Principal. The theme of this year’s graduation — thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one — “applies to all of us,” explained Sherwood who was tapped to lead Brighton High next year. “What an amazing adventure I’ve had at Jordan High. While we will all go on to do different things and have different adventures, we will all share this common adventure.” However they arrived their freshmen year, with their unique talents and aspirations: 14 graduates leave Jordan with perfect 4.0 grade point averages; 244 earned Honors or Advanced Diplomas; and two were awarded National Merit Scholarships. Jordan is home to a state champion in track and field, and a team that won the regional robotics championship in their rookie year. “It is a strange truth that much of success is simply about showing up, every day, no matter the circumstances, and putting in the most effort that you are able,” said the school’s Valedictorian Boyd Christiansen, whose idea to form a “makers club,” gave rise to Jordan’s first-ever robotics team. “We all experience limitations of one type or another, but ultimately, we decide what our limits are as our individual success is determined by attitude, not natural aptitude.” Canyons Board of Education member Clareen Arnold sounded a similar note, encouraging graduates to follow their hearts and intuitions. “Go be whatever you want to be. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t achieve. Be proud of yourself…Start your new adventure now and have lots of fun while you do it.” Congratulations to the Class of 2017.  See more on Facebook.


Alta High

Alta4.jpgAs Alta High’s seniors stepped into the Jon M. Huntsman arena on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, there was a feeling of excitement in the air — and a case of the jitters. One student waiting to enter the arena with her peers summed up the feelings of her fellow Hawks as she said, “I think I’m going to throw up I’m so nervous.” It was as though the school’s graduation theme — “It’s not impossible; it just hasn’t been done yet,” as said by Adam Sorensen — was meant for her, and all 420 of her fellow classmates. Throughout the ceremony, students, administrators and Canyons Board of Education leaders talked about confronting fears and adversity as the class of 2017 was about to forge their way in the world. “Do what you’re scared of and take a leap of faith,” senior Thane Zeeh told the audience in his student address. “Whatever your North star is, chase it because if you never do, you’re going to regret it.” Throughout the year, Alta’s Hawks have chased their dreams, Principal Brian McGill said. The Alta High marching band received high honors in the state competition with a renowned drum line, the school’s community raised tens of thousands of dollars to support a Make-a-Wish child in his dream to visit Legoland and the robotics team finished at the top of local and state competitions. The hockey team took second place in the state, as did the school’s girls golf team, while the boys soccer team won the 4A state title in soccer. McGill honored students who belong to the National Honors Society, who contributed some 5,700 hours of service to the community with an average of 77 hours per student. He noted that the student body received more than $5 million in scholarship offers, more than $1.1 million over last year, and acknowledged that 92 percent of the graduating class is already enrolled in a two- or four-year college or university, while some students have already earned approximately 2,600 credit hours in concurrent enrollment or AP credits. “Every single thing you do matters,” McGill told the crowd. “You have the power to change the world. You are ready to take your first flight.” Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor, Board of Education member Chad Iverson and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie awarded the students their diplomas as friends and family cheered from the stands. As the diploma cases were distributed and the started to settle, the words of Alta senior Jennifer Pomeroy echoed in the Hawks’ heads. “We have to say ‘I can do it. I’m going to take what you taught me and build on it,’ ” Pomeroy said. “I can’t wait to see what we will become.”

Corner Canyon

CornerCanyon4.jpgThere was some debate at Corner Canyon’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, about what it means to be a “true Charger.” As the first group of students to attend all four years and graduate from Corner Canyon, which opened in 2013, the title of “true Charger” belongs with the class of 2017, Principal Darrel Jensen told the audience of friends and family that gathered in the Jon M. Huntsman center at the University of Utah. “Just don’t tell the folks from last year,” Jensen joked with the crowd. Whatever their title, the class of 2017 has plenty to be proud about, Jensen said. More than half of the class received scholarship offers that totaled more than $7.5 million and 16 students had a perfect grade point average. Three students have already received their associates degree from Salt Lake Community college while 425 out of 500 graduating seniors received a Canyons District advanced learning diploma. The school’s mountain biking team took first place in the state competition and the school community raised more than $58,000 for charity. “You have to build a new legacy,” Jensen said to the audience. “As you venture out into the world, focus on the life you want to build instead of tearing others down.” Students were encouraged to embrace the school’s graduation theme, which is a quote from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Students laughed with each other as they reminisced over their high school experience, including dances, sporting events and classroom antics. There was also a twinge of trepidation in their eyes as they stared upward at the jumbotron to see their fellow grads take one step closer to graduation and the unknown future. “The future isn’t just scary, it’s also exciting,” senior Brandon Bills told his classmates. “Ignore people who say your dreams are too big. Embrace that challenge. You really can achieve anything as long as you put enough time and effort into it.” Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor, Board of Education member Chad Iverson and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie awarded the students their diplomas amid cheers from the stands. Iverson reminded the graduates that, while high school can be a life-changing experience, the best is yet to come. “Memories might take you back, but dreams will take you forward,” Iverson said. “Focus your energy on building the new. You can learn something new every day.”


Jordan Valley School

18814512_10154332263736580_6740706013181302835_o.jpgClad in blue and gold gowns — and flashing grins as bright as the sun — four Jordan Valley students basked in the applause of friends, family, supporters, and teachers at the school’s commencement rites on June 1. Canyons District’s school for students with severe disabilities held the special ceremony in the school’s assembly hall, which was decorated for the pomp and circumstance. Principal Mark Donnelly told the audience that it “is a privilege and honor” to be a part of the lives of the students who received certificates of completion. Donnelly also recalled times when each of them showed their playful personalities and quirks. He spoke with fondness about when Brady Cook sought him out to apologize for saying a cross word. He regaled the tale of when Maura Lloyd — “who is smarter than all of us combined,” he said — would refuse to do anything at all when Donnelly was in the room to conduct an evaluation of a staff member. He eventually had to hide out of sight in order to complete the review. Donnelly also spoke about Kevin Mecham’s love of the U.S. Navy and how proud he was that his brother is serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the Principal recalled how John Wilcox would become upset and “head butt” him when Donnelly would talk to Wilcox’s favorite teacher. At the event, to the tune of the graduation march, Cook, Lloyd, Mecham and Wilcox were escorted to the graduation stage by family members and their favorite teachers. Steve Wrigley, a member of the Board of Education, praised the students for striving to learn and grow while at the school. “You’ve worked hard to get to this place today,” he said to the students on the stage, proudly wearing their mortarboards and graduation tassels. Wrigley also had high praise for the parents of the students who were leaving Jordan Valley at the end of the year. “You have given so much. You have given your life for these students,” he said. “It be can stressful but it can be so rewarding.” Wrigley also reminded parents and students that the day’s celebration is not the end — in fact, he said, it’s the beginning of a wonderful journey. “Your children will continue to learn and grow and do things for themselves,” he said. “Aim high and encourage your children to aim high. Believe in them, and help them become all they can be.”  See more on Facebook.

Diamond Ridge High


DiamondRidge300.jpgNumbers tell one story about the impact Diamond Ridge High has on its students. Its graduation rate of 77 percent is the highest of any alternative high school in Utah. Now in its second year, the school awarded diplomas to 30-plus graduates on July 1, 2017 — double the number to cross the commencement stage the year prior. But the real story is told by the students who find their footing at the school, and in the process, rediscover their will to fight for the future they deserve. “This school has taught us that it’s OK to fall down and get back up again,” said Diamond Ridge graduate Delaney Wright at an evening commencement ceremony held at Mount Jordan Middle. “We are here today, because we found a special place that is different and amazing.” Diamond Ridge with its small class sizes, and tight-knit staff and faculty, is a school of choice — increasingly, the school of choice — for students who yearn for an alternative to the conventional school environment. The school’s entire faculty came for the graduation ceremony, and stayed afterward to mingle and snap photos with students. “I grew to love school, because these teachers weren’t just my teachers. The front office staff weren’t just office staff,” explained Ranasha Powers, a member of the Raptors’ Class of 2017. “They made sure I was smiling and got a good night’s rest. It was like having a second family, my school family.” Presiding over the ceremony were Canyons’ Assistant Superintendents Dr. Robert Dowdle and Dr. Kathryn McCarrie, Board of Education 1st Vice President Nancy Tingey and Board member Clareen Arnold. Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling praised graduates for their hard work and willingness to make sacrifices. "You are now role models for your peers. You have shown them that daily, persistent effort is what it takes to succeed," she said. Tingey concluded the ceremony with a few words of advice: 1) Always look forward and continually set new goals; 2) always do your best, because now is when everything actually happens; and 3) always help others to be successful. "Be liberal with your words of praise and appreciation for others," Tingey said. "Generously give of yourself and your time." See more on Facebook.

South Park Academy

SouthPark300.JPGMost students arrive at South Park Academy filled with doubt, devoid of any high school credits and testing at well below grade level in reading and math. Some are eager learners, looking to make up for lost time. Others approach the opportunity to earn a diploma or GED while at the Utah State Prison with what Juvenile and Adult Corrections Education Administrator Todd Bird calls, an “I dare you to teach me” attitude. But with patience and resolve, a good number overcome their fears and frustrations to realize their educational goals. “Each day we rose to the challenge to work hard and make the grade, while at the same time, dealing with the everyday chaos of being in prison,” said South Park graduate Freeda Coleman speaking at the school’s commencement ceremony. “I would say that in the process, we gained a new opinion of ourselves.” Coleman is among 110 men and women to graduate this year from South Park, an educational institution overseen by Canyons School District and located at the prison in Draper. The school, which caters to students of all ages and in all stages of their education, celebrated its Class of 2017 at a June 1 ceremony where four students received special recognition as “Students of the Year,” and a fifth, Steven Elliott, was named Valedictorian and the winner of a college scholarship. The school is a shining example of Utah’s commitment to making education a priority, said Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe who congratulated graduates on their success. “My definition of success is learning to overcome obstacles,” Briscoe said. “No matter where you are in your stay, you have the golden key of opportunity. Self-discipline, perseverance, determination, that’s the golden key.” Coincident with a wave of tough-on-crime legislation, many states have cut their prison education programs. But Bird says, participation in prison education, whether academic or vocational, has been associated with a more than 40 percent reduction in recidivism. CSD Board of Education member Steve Wrigley, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Katherine McCarrie, and Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling also participated in South Park's commencement ceremony. See more on Facebook. 

Select photos from Canyons District graduation ceremonies

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