Six seniors celebrate small-town roots

DE BEQUE — A big and exciting world awaits De Beque High School’s Class of 2009, but before heading out into it, graduates looked back fondly Saturday on their small-town beginnings.

A mere six seniors received their diplomas in the school gym Saturday, and salutatorian Amber Price wasn’t complaining about her class size one bit.

“I loved attending school here, mainly because it was small,” Price said in her speech.

She said she appreciated the one-on-one attention and especially the chance to get to know everyone in school. It was a sentiment Casey Burdick shared during her valedictory address.

“Not a lot of people can say they have had the pleasure of getting to know their classmates at a personal level or that they possibly knew their classmates better than themselves,” Burdick said.

The six are heading off to everything from college to the Marines to firefighter training.

Change looms large in their lives, yet they’ve already experienced a fair amount of it even in their small town.

Price hinted at it during her speech, saying change had brought good and bad to De Beque.

In an interview, she mentioned the growth in population and crime in a community that has seen intensive natural gas development outside of town.

But she added, “It’s still a good town. Everybody knows each other, everybody’s polite, everybody talks to each other.”

These days, some of the talk even among students is about the drilling slowdown that has followed the boom.

“A lot of them have seen their dads getting laid off,” said Mike Kirschner, a shop teacher.

Although drilling-related work is important, “I don’t think it’s good to rely on it” as a career, said Burdick, who is going into nursing.

As they pondered the future Saturday, De Beque’s graduates enjoyed the intimate ceremony that comes with having such a small graduating class.

Commencement speaker and school counselor Al Baumgartle shared anecdotes about them.

Slide shows depicted each of them starting with their diaper days, and their parents were able to accompany them on stage when they received their diplomas.

History teacher Ashley Hill said having such a small school makes the students feel like family to teachers.

“You worry about them and make sure they’re doing well in all of their classes — everything. You don’t just worry about your own class,” she said.


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