Fruita Monument ceremony a show of hope, victory

Photos by Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel—Under a living room sign that reads “strength,” Fruita Monument High School graduate Kylie Goetz, right, shares a moment with her mother, Nora, who has battled breast cancer to a standoff. Kylie Goetz said she wants to become a radiology technician.



Skyler Landers, left, flashes a sign to a fellow senior as his friend Bryce Langley winds up to kick a beach ball out of the way as both head back to their seats from the stage after receiving their diplomas during Fruita Monument High School’s commencement Tuesday.



A graduate makes the sign of a heart toward the stands as Fruita Monument Principal Jan Keirns spoke, encouraging the seniors to acknowledge the role of their parents in the success of the class of 2013.



The pomp and color so evident in Stocker Stadium Tuesday evening during Fruita Monument High School’s graduation ceremonies provided a distinct sheen over countless stories of struggle and persistence, as it does every year.

Kylie Goetz is one of those stories.

She has grown up in the shadow of cancer, one dark enough that it might have meant her mother, Nora, might not see her graduate.

Nora Goetz, however, on Tuesday did see her daughter walk with her classmates and collect her diploma from Fruita Monument.

Kylie joined the 386 members of the Class of 2013.

“God has just provided miracle after miracle,” Goetz said of her experience over the past 10 years, culminating in her daughter’s graduation.

Kylie was 7 when Goetz told her she had cancer.

“I thought, ‘Oh well, she’s going to be fine,’ ” Kylie Goetz said.

It was breast cancer and a fast-moving one at that. Three lumpectomies and chemotherapy couldn’t corral it.

Cancer ran free through her body, at one point attacking Nora’s brain. The treatment caused her to hallucinate.

And it was to Kylie that she confided those hallucinations.

Through it all, Kylie earned honors as the goalie for the Fruita Monument girls soccer team and pursued her studies, which she now hopes will lead to Colorado Mesa University and studying to become a radiology technician.

She had hoped to go into medicine and was interested in sports medicine, but as time has passed, she gravitated to radiology, Kylie said.

Nora has battled cancer to a standoff with regular Herceptin treatments, but she still speaks with a breathy voice that hints at the extent of cancer’s reach. The damage to her vocal cords could be undone with surgery, but that’s some time off yet.

“Mom never seemed too awfully sick,” Kylie said. “Even when things got serious, she just kept going.”

As Nora kept going, so did Kylie.

“I think I’m a stronger person, really,” Kylie said.

When one of her teammate’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, “She came straight up to me and asked me, ‘How do I deal with this?’”

Sitting with her daughter on a couch in their Fruita home, with a plaque emblazoned with the word “Strength” on the wall above them, Nora said the key so far has been simple: “Cancer has not controlled us,” she said. “We have controlled cancer.”

At Stocker Stadium, senior class president Erica Maestas was an apt messenger for the graduating class.

Maestas is the recipient of a four-year prestigious Daniels Scholarship, but she is not your typical overachieving high school student. As she explains, she was one of many children in a large family — making her way to the top of her class through independent hard work, numerous service projects and excelling in the school’s peer counseling program and student senate.

As one of her counselors, Andrea Bolton, explained, “I’ve watched Erica grow into a strong and mature young woman over the past few years. School doesn’t always come easy to her, but she does whatever she can to help so that she can keep good grades.”

Bolton called her an “amazing” peer counselor, an experience rooted in Maestas’ own growth during high school.

“I think growing up, I went through a lot—so I relate with a lot of people. So I’m able to help people who are going through tough times now,” Maestas said in an interview before graduation. “I know it’s a struggle for some students, and that’s what we’re kind of there for, to help people along.”

Maestas will attend Colorado State in Fort Collins next year, but plans to transfer now that she knows she’s earned a full scholarship. Her “dream school” is the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but wherever she goes, she plans to pursue studies in law and political science, with the goal of entering the world of politics someday.

“I just like to have a say. I’m not a person that sits back and lets things happen. I’m the kind of person who has to make things happen,” she said.

That was a theme reflected in Valedictorian Ian Laga’s speech to the 2013 graduating class Tuesday.

“We must find the path that looks most interesting, that appears to offer the most happiness, that truly speaks to us as individuals—and start walking,” Laga said.

Staff writer Duffy Hayes contributed to this report.


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