Grand Valley class shows its respect for fellow grad by holding applause

Dustin Noble, right, who is autistic and sensitive to the sound of applause, raises his hand to acknowledge his classmates and the crowd Saturday, after they raised their hands to him in lieu of clapping as he received his diploma from Grand Valley High School in Parahute. He was one of 68 graduates.

PARACHUTE — Sixty-eight strong, a Grand Valley High School class hailed for its all-for-one, one-for-all attitude graduated Saturday.

Their esprit de corps may have been nowhere more evident than when Dustin Noble walked across the stage. Noble is autistic and bothered by the sound of applause, so instead his classmates led the crowd in a silent raising of hands in honor of his receiving his diploma.

“That was a very special moment for me,” said his mom, Janell.

Despite the difficulties Noble has faced over the years, classmates have included him in activities and treated his situation with grace and aplomb, his mother said appreciatively.

“They’re very protective of him and have been very accepting,” she said.

Principal Ryan Frink similarly praised this group of students for how they have interacted over the years, including with those who have transferred into their school.

“That’s a very unique characteristic of this class and it’s exciting to see,” Frink said.

Indeed, it was a diverse assemblage of students, including academic standouts who tried, not so successfully, to pull off some senior pranks on Frink this week, including placing orange, flashing traffic barrels at his house in the middle of the night.

It was a story Frink recounted Saturday with nostalgic fondness in his voice for the perpetrators, knowing their Parachute school days now are just memories.

Commencement speaker Alan Dillon, who taught the Class of 2011 in grade school, and salutatorian Eryn Paskett both peppered their addresses with some of those memories, such as what Paskett described as an eighth-grade Moab bike trip gone awry.

Now 53 of the graduates are pursuing higher education. Topping the class academically is valedictorian Brandi Krieg.

Paskett predicted that for the Class of 2011, “this is the end of something good and the beginning of something great.”

For one graduate, Sarah O’Brien, just making it this far has been quite an achievement. O’Brien has worn a hearing aid since she was 3 or 4, was sometimes taunted during her school days elsewhere because of that, and has “always been known as the new girl” in school because she moved around a lot, she said.

“There were more times I went home crying than I actually was satisfied with school,” she said.

She became pregnant and had a son, but then came to Grand Valley, attracted by its teen parenting program. It took her until age 20 to do it, but on Saturday she accomplished something that at times seemed out of reach.

“I definitely feel like I’ve achieved my goal,” she said.


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