Palisade student wouldn’t settle for less than his best

Palisade graduate Gilberto Rivas shakes hands as he receives his diploma Monday evening during a commencement ceremony at Stocker Stadium.

One day, nearly six years ago, led Palisade High School senior Gilberto Rivas to Monday night.

Rivas received his diploma at Stocker Stadium along with nearly 200 of his classmates, and like most, he was not the valedictorian or salutatorian.

In fact, like most of his peers at Palisade he didn’t graduate with a grade point average near 4.0.

However, Rivas’ high school accomplishments do set him apart. Some might argue the goals Rivas reached are just as impressive as any GPA.

Rivas graduated as both bilingual and can read and write in Spanish and English.

The accomplishment, which he admitted was a struggle, ranked Rivas among the hardest-working students in District 51 this year, teachers and administrators said.

“He is remarkable,” Palisade teacher Linda Malesich said.

Malesich was Rivas’ Advanced Placement English language teacher this year. Yes, Rivas took AP English language, making him the first student in Malesich’s career to pass the course despite speaking, reading and writing better in Spanish.

What impressed teachers and administrators more about Rivas was his dedication to improving his English skills while helping classmates speak and write better English.

Although Rivas earned enough credits to graduate as a junior, he returned for his senior year to take AP English language.

“It was a great opportunity,” Rivas said. “I feel like everybody can grow.”

The growth Rivas spoke of actually began in seventh grade when he was unable to translate English for his parents at several appointments. He vowed to never fail his family again. He made it a goal to beat English.

He won, having attained a fluency in both English and Spanish through years of study and hard work.

With graduation finished and Mesa State College on the horizon, Rivas is confident his parents, both born in Mexico, are proud of him. He is proud of himself and the value he gets from education.

Rivas knows classmates at Palisade High who took easier classes to get better grades.

The concept of accepting a challenge instead of getting the easy “A” was said by Rivas and echoed in the words of student-selected speaker Ann Conaway, of the school’s math department.

“Don’t settle for less than your best,” Conaway told the 209 graduates in the Palisade class of 2010 on Monday. “You’ll soon find ... settling is unrewarding.”

Rivas is one of the students who took Conaway’s words to heart, even if he absorbed her words years before she said them.

“Yes, I am done (with high school),” Rivas said. “But I don’t feel finished.”


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