Thirty-five years after her father delivered a valedictory speech at his Grand Junction High School commencement, his daughter, 2018 valedictorian Tia Sewell, delivered her own commencement remarks on Wednesday.

For Tia, the moment was laden with significance, for herself and for her fellow graduates.

Her father, Tim Sewell, died in 2012, a victim of suicide.

It's a subject she raised at her commencement, just as she has done several times in recent years after the suicide of many high school students from Grand Junction High School and around the Grand Valley.

"To me, this is far more than a five-minute speech," Tia said. "The significance of today is tied to the hardship that we have overcome and the people who we have lost along the way."

She holds the memory of her father close, as close as her wrist, on which she had tattooed an outline of an F-16, the fighter jet her father once flew.

She and her contemporaries "must remember that relationships are essential to our fulfillment and, above all, we must seek to love others as the individuals that they are without attempting to change them," Tia said in her speech.

And she urged her 356 classmates to grow beyond easy categorizations.

"Rather than quantifying our peers by social following, or athletic record, or academic scores, we should seek to understand what drives them, what makes them happy, and even why they form opinions that differ from our own."

As senior class president, Tia shared speech-making duty with her longtime friend, Katie Carozza, who was salutatorian.

Tia earned a 4.44 GPA while working two part-time jobs, as well as working with organizations dealing with suicide prevention.

She is bound this fall for Stanford, where she has no immediate plans for her first two years, though she is leaning toward law or business.

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