By Vanessa Kahin
Clovis High School’s class of 2014 — about 422 members strong — will mark more than an end to high school during a commencement ceremony set to take place at 6 p.m. May 23 at the Curry County Events Center.
Not that graduating isn’t reason enough to celebrate, but the class of 2014 has proven itself to be academically strong. It will be the first in recent history to graduate side-by-side with peers from Choices Alternative High School, and has a strong band that’s achieved state and national honors.
CHS Principal Wayne Marshall said that the 422 is about an average graduating class, but the event gets to be special for a few more kids.
“The thing that’s different this year is that Choices students and main campus (CHS students) are all graduating together,” Marshall said. “Everyone wears purple, everyone is in alphabetical order. You won’t be able to tell who’s graduating from what campus.”
Marshall said Choices is for students who, for any number of reasons, struggle in a regular high school setting. Choices’ curriculum is focused on helping such students obtain a high school diploma, placing them on a fast track to graduation.
Although Choices graduates historically obtained a CHS diploma, their commencement ceremony was on a different day than that of CHS.
“It’s a great day,” said Choices Principal Todd Morris of the combined commencement ceremony. “It’s a celebration of what our kids can do, no matter the challenges or obstacles they face. They can overcome.”
The 2014 graduating class, Marshall said, helped the school elevate its New Mexico Public Education Department report card grade from a “C,” which it had maintained since 2010, to a “B,” which it achieved in 2013.
“That ‘B’ is the direct result of the class that’s graduating this year,” Marshall said of the score.
The report card’s score was boosted by the class of 2014’s scores on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment.
“Academically, they’re a very sound group,” Marshall said of the class of ’14. He noted that students from all the grades at CHS continually overachieve.
“We have the highest performing teams,” he said. “It’s rare that our teams don’t make it to the playoffs. … Our band is the highest performing band in the state.”
The CHS band scored 297 out of 300 possible points during a New Mexico Activities Association concert band contest in Albuquerque, earning the band the highest rank of any high school band in the state.
They were also named the top marching band in the state this year, according to graduating percussionists Tristan Ham, Stephen Yung, Hank Dropps, Garry Howard and Dustyn Crane.
Also, the CHS band was given the National Band Association High School Programs of Excellence Blue Ribbon Award — the only band in the Southwest to achieve this honor.
“We left something we can always remember,” said Dropps, 18.
“It’s a big deal because we’re seniors,” said 18-year-old Yung of the band’s accolades. He noted that younger members of the band may not feel the same way seniors do about all the honors, but they might feel the bar has been raised for them.
For Ham, also 18, all the honors are the result of hours of hard work, much like senior year. He said, along with his classmates, that senior year seemed to be the easiest academically while other years seemed more challenging.
“They shouldn’t call it senior year, they should call it relief year,” Ham joked.
Ham, Yung and Crane aspire for a degree in music education from Eastern New Mexico University. Dropps also plans to attend ENMU and play in that school’s band, he said, but major in social work to become a therapist.
“I’m going to be the oddball out,” Howard, 18, said. “I’m planning to go to CCC (Clovis Community College). So far, my plans are to do general eds. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”
The seniors had some words of wisdom for younger students.
“Take all the credits you have (a chance) to take,” advised Crane, 17. “They make you better.”
Ham reiterated that the further one goes in high school, “the easier it gets.”
Yung stressed the importance of getting involved.
“I see kids that show up to school just to show up,” he said. “If you’re not involved, you’re going to hate high school.”