Montrose graduates savor lessons learned, joy of the day

Photos by MELINDA MAWDSLEY/The Daily Sentinel—Montrose High School graduates enjoyed a warm, but windy, day Sunday during graduation, where many showed off their personalities by tossing inflatable toys, decorating their caps or wearing special accessories. BELOW: Mitchell Neal addresses the Montrose High School Class of 2014 and gathered friends and family during Sunday’s commencement ceremony, as fellow valedictorian Grace Halbach, left, looks on.

With all due respect to Montrose, Mitchell Neal is ready to leave.

Thanks to a 4.345 GPA and a QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship for high-academic, low-income students, Neal is off to the University of Chicago this fall to study biology with a concentration in genetics or neuroscience.

Not to be a doctor or anything. Neal, 18, wants to manage a team of scientists.

“I’m really interested in science because of the possibilities for it,” he said. “Genetics is one of the things still pretty poorly understood. It’s so interesting to me that something as amazing and complex as life can be expressed by numbers.”

The University of Chicago offers a genetics program, which is uncommon in the U.S.

“It’s a prestigious school, and I know I’m going to get a good education there,” Neal said. “They have a really (quirky) community and it seems like everyone there likes to learn.”

Neal attributes his and his twin sister Alisha Neal’s independent personalities — she’s heading to Seattle to study communications — to the life lessons they learned before their junior year when their mother suffered a brain aneurysm.

“It was completely out of the blue,” Mitchell Neal said. “We were in Denver for pretty much the whole summer staying with friends while she was doing therapy.”

Their mother, who always emphasized that Mitchell and Alisha do the best they could in school, has recovered, “but we had to learn independence,” Mitchell said.

The Neal twins were two of the more than 260 graduates in the Montrose High School Class of 2014, and Sunday’s ceremony showcased the personality and individuality of many of its students.

Desiree Baird acted out a poem “This is Just to Say,” which incorporated life lessons with popular games.

Molly Krabbe and Bryce Howe performed a “Mash Up of Songs,” an original compilation.

The four valedictorians — Neal, Kelsea Long, Grace Halbach and Hayden Cook — gave unique speeches about high school and life after graduation, as their classmates tossed nearly a dozen different inflatable toys, such as a killer whale and dinosaur, throughout the ceremony.

Long talked about lessons she learned from comic books, noting the X-Men taught her “we are all different and gifted in our own ways. Never think you are not special.”

Neal listed off things he learned from friends and peers.

“Now go into the world with compassion and an open mind, so we’re part of the group that pushes ahead to make things better,” he said in his final thoughts, “instead of getting left behind as only a footnote in the history books.”


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