Senior Class President Emerald Hall, ready for graduation
ceremony on May 24. Photo by Linda Faas

It was finally the day.  May 24 came as the finale that the seniors at Virgin Valley High School had worked toward.  A flurry of testing, farewell concerts, awards ceremonies, sports events and family gatherings preceded the crowning hour when those 160-plus teens would line up to march onto the VVHS football field for their last hour as high school students.

Awaiting the processional march, Emerald Hall, VVHS 2019 Senior Class President, was appropriately decked in leis and garlands, wearing a spectacular crown of flowers that almost obscured her mortar board.  Her wide smile said it all:  this was a great day for her and her classmates.

Under a perfect Mesquite sky, as setting sun outlined the Virgin Mountains, the Class of 2019 marched forward to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the VVHS Band.  Settled into their seats flanking the stage, the graduating class contained their excitement as they listened to Interim Principal Maurice Perkins introduce the evening formalities.

As Sage Bundy took the podium to deliver her Salutatorian address, she called for help from classmate Jaylee Whipple on ukulele.  The pair interjected a comical twist with a musical warning of impending reality.   This evening of celebration and fun will soon require each grad’s acceptance of personal responsibility.

Principal Cliff Hughes says farewell to his last graduating
class as he retires from VVHS. Photo by Linda Faas

The five class Valedictorians, Ximena Guerrero, Kade Haviland, Denisse Jimenez-Iniguez, Raymundo Mendez-Cazares, and Emma Wilson, each gave a short speech, paying tribute to parents and family, the community, special teachers, and noting the importance of accepting challenge.  Among those five graduates are two future computer scientists, two mechanical engineers, and one future member of the medical field.   They spoke for all their classmates, looking for a bright future in their life’s calling.

The poignant moment of the evening came when Principal Cliff Hughes took the podium to present the Class of 2019.   Mr. Hughes recounted how this was his own 40th anniversary in the Mesquite schools, and he joins with the class of 2019 to retire from his post at the high school.  Family illness has caused him to take personal leave during the entire 2018-19 school year as he cared for his ailing wife.   “This is the class of my heart,”  he said.  He recounted how it has been a privilege for him to care for his wife this past year.

“Life can change overnight, and your attitude toward that change is what make a difference,”  he instructed the graduates.  “Be grateful to those who have helped you, and work to make the world a better place.”  With those words, Hughes invited the Class of 2019 to accept their diplomas.   Each strode to the stage for that affirming diploma, a handshake from Mr. Hughes, and a photo to memorialize the proud moment.

Emerald Hall then led the class in the symbolic turning of their mortarboard tassels, accepting the challenge of a new life beyond Virgin Valley High School.  As they charged onto the field and tossed their mortarboards in the air, the Class of 2019 took their first steps toward throwing off old reins and taking control of their own future.   But in their hearts they will always be the Bulldogs of Virgin Valley High School.