Over the past two weekends area schools have held their graduation ceremonies sending the Class of 2019 out into the world to face many challenges including college, trade school, the military, or work. It’s an emotional time of year as the best and the brightest of our rural kids receive their much-deserved recognition and accolades, and at the same time look toward their future lives.
In looking at the future plans of our most recent graduates as provided by area schools there is a definite trend that would make Mike Rowe from the television series Dirty Jobs beam with pride. Students are re-considering how they approach secondary education and job training due to the astronomical cost of attending a four-year university. They are starting to realize it is very difficult to pay for college by taking out student loans. Therefore, only 18% have elected to attend a four-year college right out of the gates, with most of them having much of their education paid for through scholarship or grant opportunities.
Conversely, nearly 55% of the students have elected to go directly to job training school, tech schools, or begin their post-secondary education at a junior college where there are many scholarships to be had and the opportunity to gain two years of education with little to no debt is a key to their decision.
Finally, 6% of the area’s newest graduates will go to the military, and 6% will go directly to work.
On Saturday, Eads High School hosted their annual graduation ceremonies that featured just 10 students. The Salutatorian was Emily Gyurman and the Valedictorian was Lauren Spady. Both girls, along with Hadlie Rittgers, all had 4.0 grade point averages and the selection had to come down to percentages per semester. This is highly unusual and speaks to the quality of graduates from Eads.
Emily Gyurman will attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and go into Pre-Med and Psychology where she will work to be a pediatric neurologist and hopes to work at Children’s Hospital. She received the Kit Faragher Foundation Award for $5,000 renewable for 2 years. She also received the following local awards: Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs for $1,200; Ethel Johnson Memorial Scholarship for $500; Weisbrod Memorial Employee Scholarship for $500; William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $500 and Eads Alumni Association Scholarship for $500. Gyurman was also the recipient of the Taproot Seven Foundation Scholarship for $1,500. Her grand total was $4,700 to apply toward educational expenses.
Reagen Johnson will attend Otero Junior College and work toward an AS in Animal Sciences. She will receive the President’s Leadership Scholarship for $1,000; OJC 3.0 Scholars Program for $1,000 per semester renewable for four semesters; Kiowa County 4-H Ellicott Memorial Scholarship for $250; Eads FFA Alumni Scholarship for $1,000; and the OJC Visit Day Scholarship for $200 for a total of $5,450.
Brooklynn Jones will attend Lamar Community College in the Horse Training Management program and will study in the Equine Business Management degree program. She received the LCC COSI Scholarship for $2,000 per year renewable for two years; LCC Colorado Pride Scholarship for $1,000 per year renewable for two years; and the William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $500 for a total package of $6,500.
Miranda Mitchek is engaged and will live with her family in Cheyenne Wells where she works and is a shareholder in Testify Ranch and Golden Rows Farms.
Hadlie Rittgers was named as a Daniels Scholar and as such will have her education paid for. She will attend Adams State University and study Secondary Business Education. The Daniels Scholarship will provide for 4 years at $18,000 per year for a total of $72,000. Rittgers also received the ASU Principal’s Merit Scholarship for $3,000 per year for 4 years for a total of $12,000. Her total package will be $84,000.
Lauren Spady will study to become an Elementary Teacher and has already earned a number of college credits required in her plan of study. She will begin at Otero Junior College and then will transfer to the University of Colorado – Denver to finish her Bachelors degree. Spady will receive the OJC 3.0 Scholars award for $1,000 per semester, renewable for 4 semesters; the Vera and Alan Shand OJC Scholarship for $2,000; Masonic Benevolent Fund for $1,000; Fellowship Credit Union for $500; IBC Bank Scholarship for $1,000; Eads WE (Women Empowered) Book Scholarship for $250; GN Bank Honor Athlete Scholarship for $750; Eads Alumni Association Scholarship for $500; Kiowa County Conservation District for $250; William Glover Memorial Scholarship for $500, and the EEA Future Teacher Scholarship for $500. The total package is $11,000.
Blake Stoker will attend Western State University in Gunnison to study Wildlife Conservation. He received the Colorado Student Grant for $2,100 renewable yearly for 4 years for a total of $8,400; the Western Resident Grant for $4,212 per year for 4 years for a total of $16,848; a Pell Grant for $2,045 per year for a total of $8,180; the Kiowa County Conservation District Book Scholarship for $250; the GNBank Honor Athlete Award for $750 for an overall package of $34,428.
Nick Epper was thrilled to graduate with his class and march in with his best friend Blake Stoker as they were the only two boys in the class. Nick will continue his education at Eads High School until he is 21 years old.
Molly Stolzenberger will attend Northeast Junior College in Sterling to study in the Early Childhood Education department. She hopes to receive her certification to be a Child Care Director and work in the area. She has scholarships ending at NJC; she also received the Daniel Kasza Memorial 4-H Scholarship for $750 for outstanding work as a 4-H student and leader.
Kaylee Wilson recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Hastings College in Hastings, NE. She will work in courses toward training in Occupational Therapy. Wilson would like to then transfer to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to become an OT. She will receive a number of scholarships from Hastings that are still pending, but has received the Ringland Scholarship for $6,500 per semester for $13,000 per year; The Women’s Basketball Scholarship for $3,000 per semester for $6,000 per year; a Hastings College Grant for $350 per semester for $700 per year; and other grants totaling $3,073 per semester for $6,145 per year. During the four years of education she will receive $103,380.
Plainview High School had the earliest graduation ceremony in the area as they graduated on May 12 with three graduates receiving diplomas. Kayla Wanderlingh was the Valedictorian and Benji Davis the Salutatorian. Davis will attend Grand Canyon University and major in forensic science. Wanderlingh will attend Calvary Bible in Kansas City and major in biblical counseling with an emphasis in psychology. Britney Wilson plans to work on the family farm helping her mother and grandmother.
The Kit Carson graduation saw 8 graduates walk across the stage on Saturday, as well. Haley Johnson received the Boettcher Scholarship and will attend college at Colorado University in Boulder. Johnson was the Salutatorian. The class Valedictorian was McKenzie Smith.
Here’s to the Class of 2019 as they step into the next chapter of their promising lives. No matter what path they take, a graduate from rural southeastern Colorado is a person who has the tools, character, and potential to succeed at whatever they choose to do.