The Class of 2015 bids a fond farewell to Summit High School |

The Class of 2015 bids a fond farewell to Summit High School

At long last: A Summit High School graduate takes his diploma during the commencement ceremony yesterday morning.
Phil Lindeman / |

When Elliott Hedman took the dais in front of a packed house at Summit High School yesterday morning, the Class of 2015 met him with a round of whoops and yells and hollers.

It wasn’t some random accident. Call it the soundtrack to senioritis, but every single grad knew to cause a ruckus when anyone — teachers, principal Drew Adkins, keynote speaker Hedman — said “Class of 2015,” a title that belongs to thousands of students but somehow felt custom-made for the Summit seniors. It was found painted on cars and floating on balloons. One younger brother even had it scrawled across his cheeks.

So Hedman decided to have a bit of fun.

“When I say ‘Hey,’ I want you to cheer,” the SHS alum told the crowd of more than 1,000 parents, siblings and friends gathered in the gym. Remember, Adkins later told the fray, this was the same Summit local who once tore through the halls wearing a Ninja Turtles outfit and went on to earn a Ph.D. from MIT. Fun — not to mention passion — runs in the SHS family.

“Hey!” Hedman said into the mic and was met by a tentative round of cheers. With a devious grin, he then turned to the 180 graduates decked in green and black gowns. It was game time.

“Class of …” he started, and before he even finished his voice was drowned in another chorus of whoops. Like some kind of impromptu ringleader — or maybe a living, breathing Jumbotron — he started pointing back and forth, first at the crowd on the hardwood, then at the students on the bleachers.

“Hey!” Hedman said. This time, the parents nearly matched their kids. They were loud and lively, but it was commencement day. The graduates weren’t about to be beat.

“Class of 2015!” Cheers and hollers and laughter. The cheers died down when Hedman dug into his address, but the room was still buzzing with energy. He talked about his foibles and failures and leaps of faith, including the one and only time he searched for a date on Craigslist.

“Out of desperation, I created a Craigslist ad: Would you like to go to a sci-fi convention with me?” Hedman said, tying the odd tactic to a moral: don’t be afraid to fail. “I remember hitting that button and thinking, ‘I’m at the lowest of the low right now.’”

More laughter.

Yet the atmosphere was electric long before Hedman talked about sci-fi and MIT. It was sparked when student body president Morgan Courtney gave a speech about adventure — fitting themes for an All-American rugby player and aspiring journalist — and told her classmates to find inspiration anywhere, from college professors to the lunch lady.

Then came salutatorian Logan Weinman, a published author since age 10 who started with a quote from ABC’s “Modern Family.” Like Hedman, he had his sights set on MIT but will attend School of Mines instead, where he’ll enter as a sophomore after acing several math courses at Mines and Colorado Mountain College. And he did it all as a junior.

“It’s just important to remember as one door closes, another door opens,” Weinman said. “It’s about remembering the times we came together, the times we shared and everything we’ve done in high school.”

Valedictorian Kaeli Subberwal spoke next, reminding her classmates that awards and accolades don’t tell the entire story. She studied abroad at Oxford and spent a summer at Princeton — both impressive names in academia — but neither experience would have come to pass without support from family, friends and the guts to say goodbye to both when opportunity knocks.

Yet goodbyes are never easy. In his opening speech, Adkins asked everyone to remember Marco Reifsteck, a SHS senior who passed away unexpectedly less than a week before graduation. When Reifsteck’s parents and brother accepted his diploma, the crowd stood and applauded for more than a minute. It faded slowly, followed by a long and cathartic silence. This family has fun, but it takes care of its own.

“As you find what drives you,” Hedman said near the end of his speech, “Be prepared to be alone. Be prepared to fail. Be prepared to be weird. But I implore you to take that uphill journey. ”

And now, Class of 2015, it’s time for the next journey.

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