Rifle grads move on with laughs, purpose

Photos by Dennis Webb—Heidi Acosta applauds for classmates Sunday at Rifle High School’s graduation. Acosta said she worried about her prospects for graduating after getting poor grades her freshman year. But she buckled down with encouragement from teachers and her parents, and will go on to college, with plans to study youth education.BELOW: Rifle graduate Parker Peterson demonstrates the power of a newly received diploma. Commencement speakers invoked humor Sunday, and hit a somber note in remembering a class member who died last year after contracting the flu.

Strengthened by the power of a newly received diploma, Parker Peterson shows some bicep at Rifle High School’s graduation Sunday.

RIFLE — Enjoy the successes, learn from the failures, learn something new each day, and laugh each day, Garfield Re-2 School District Superintendent Susan Birdsey advised Rifle High School 2012 graduates Sunday.

“It makes a bad day better and it’s healthy,” Birdsey said about laughter.

As if following Birdsey’s lead, valedictorian Andrew Proebstle left the crowd chuckling with a light-hearted, rhyming speech during Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

“You’ve all done well to make it this far. I can’t believe we are already saying au revoir,” said Proebstle, also a star on a track team that won a state title last year and took second this year.

There was a more somber moment for Rifle’s 118 graduates Sunday when they remembered Austin Booth, a popular class member who died last year after contracting the flu.

Rifle teacher and graduation speaker Jonathan Rice said Booth seemed to know that what matters in life is relationships and thinking of others.

“This is why so many of us were so powerfully drawn to him,” Rice said.

In an interview, graduate Heidi Acosta said she had others to thank for her ultimate success in school.

When she first started at Rifle High, “I didn’t know that grades and everything mattered in the future,” Acosta said.

Her grades were so bad her freshman year that she thought she might not be able to graduate. That’s when her parents and teachers talked to her about the importance of studying and “just kept pushing me in school and to keep out of trouble,” Acosta said.

Acosta’s parents are from Mexico and English is her second language.

“I used to be embarrassed to read out loud,” she said.

Then she took advantage of a program in school for students not fluent in English and gained courage and confidence as a student. Now she has received a scholarship from Alpine Bank and will be attending Colorado Mountain College.

“I want to do youth education,” said Acosta, perhaps inspired by those who encouraged her in her own education.

On Sunday, she was the one inspiring her own mom, Maria Acosta, Maria said. She proudly watched her daughter cross the graduation stage Sunday — the first to do so as students queued up alphabetically.

Maria described herself as “very happy today” as she choked back tears of joy after joining her daughter following her graduation.

A total of 118 graduates received their diplomas Sunday. The class co-salutatorians were Keith McCutchan and Casey Moher-Crook.


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