‘Enjoy the journey’ Centauri grads

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Photos by Brian Williams

Nearly 80 receive diplomas on May 25

LA JARA – It was standing-room-only for the Centauri High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 25, inside the CHS gymnasium.

North Conejos School District Board of Education trustees proudly recognized 77 graduates in a student-centered ceremony that finished in less than an hour as promised by CHS Principal Katie Montague.

The top four students of the class were the featured speakers at the ceremony – Diego Chavez, Riley Valdez, Julia Patigdas, Tayden Montoya.

Chavez kept his speech lighthearted and concluded by thanking everyone.

“Thank you everybody from the bottom of my year,” said Chavez, wearing a red cap and gown with light blue stole signifying he is a National Honor Society member and a gold cord signaling high academic honor of a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or above over their four years of high school. “Friends, family, students, staff, so many people have invested their time, money, effort, love, anything I could ask for, I really appreciate it, and that goes for all of us. We have all been invested into, let's show everyone that invested in us that it was not taken for granted.”

Patigdas, Valdez, and Montoya are also NHS members and wore gold cords.

Patigdas, wearing a white cap and gown, reminded her classmates to “enjoy the journey” ahead.

“As you look forward to the next stage of our lives, whether it is college, a career, or another path entirely, let us vow to enjoy the journey and not just the destination,” she said.

Valdez inspired his classmates to be the catalyst of change.

“We can inspire change in our communities, workplaces and homes, not by force by the strength of our character, the consistency of our actions,” he said. “As we embark on this new chapter of our lives let us lead with compassion, integrity, and the unwavering belief that we can change the world.”

Montoya looked forward to hearing about all that the Class of 2024 would accomplish in the years ahead. She received 12 scholarships, second most in the class, that totaled nearly $300,000.

“You are all capable of shooting for the stars and beyond,” she said. “I know you will do incredible things in this world, and I cannot wait to hear about them.”

Twenty-four graduates were National Honor Society members and 32 wore gold cords.

Montague, wearing a long, flowing red dress, gave the Welcoming Address and read off a list of Class of 2024 accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.

During the entire ceremony, candid photos of all the graduates were shown on a large screen above the speakers.

The class, as of the ceremony, had received nearly $3 million in scholarships and Montague said that number could rise as more were expected to be announced. Seventy-three students received scholarships. Saige Hostetter received 13 scholarships, totaling nearly $300,000.

School district Superintendent Darren Edgar thanked two retiring staffers – Krista Middlemist and Ester Sowards – for their decades of service. Middlemist, a La Jara Elementary Special Education teacher, had 30 years of teaching. Sowards, a Centauri Middle School custodian, had 20 years with the district.

The parents of Logan Smith accepted his honorary graduate diploma. Smith, 15, died in tragic dirt motorcycle accident in August of 2021.

Graduates Camry Miller and Aundre Chavez provided opening and closing prayers, respectively. Miller received eight scholarships that totaled nearly $380,000, including $132,000 Chancellor’s Scholarship from the University of Denver, and a $100,000 Daniels Scholarship.

Jaelyn Jackson was the senior class president. Nikolai Pawloski was the class sponsor.

Montoya concluded her speech with the following quote by Dr. Seuss, “You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so... Get on your way.”