Skating through life leads to Palisade graduate’s big break

Emily Zamora, who will be playing hockey in college, is congratulated by one of her Palisade High School classmates after receiving her diploma Monday.

Perhaps it’s the grittiness that comes with competing in her favorite sport since she was in elementary school. Maybe it’s the unwavering support of her family.

Whatever the reason, Emily Zamora has played off it to accomplish her goals and, in the process, establish several firsts.

When her family moved from Gunnison — where she had lived virtually all her life — to the Grand Valley for her junior year of high school, she helped start a girls’ hockey program.

When The Glacier Ice Arena closed a year later, her parents let her return to Gunnison at the beginning of this year and spend three months attending Gunnison High School so she could continue skating with a club team.

She’ll soon head off to Colorado State University, believed to be the first School District 51 student-athlete to play women’s collegiate hockey at the Division I level.

That was the sort of dedication and individuality to which Palisade High School graduates were encouraged to aspire during commencement ceremonies Monday evening, when Zamora and her 215 classmates received their diplomas.

Keynote speaker Kim Popick, a Palisade High language arts teacher and 2004 graduate, told the Class of 2011 that too many people chase fame without knowing who they are or what they stand for.

“Don’t be the next somebody, be the first you,” she said.

While her love for hockey convinced her to temporarily relocate to Gunnison, it wasn’t an easy decision for Zamora. Her parents were split — Dad came up with the idea while Mom was reluctant to see her go. And while she would reunite with old friends, she didn’t relish the idea of moving to Gunnison, back to Grand Junction, then off to Fort Collins, all in the period of eight months. Although she didn’t receive any credits toward graduation while she was in Gunnison, she was faithful in attending class, ensuring she could play next year at CSU and performing a number of community service hours for a project to benefit young soccer players in Rwanda.

She graduated with a 3.7 GPA.

The ceremony concluded with a twist: rainy weather over the weekend kept the Palisade baseball team in the Denver area longer than expected and nearly prevented six seniors from walking with their class. The team rushed back Monday, with the last two players showing up 15 minutes before the ceremony ended.


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