Pima graduates 63 in style

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: In Pima, they don’t just toss their hats upon graduation but each other as well.

Commencement exercises set the bar for the rest of the Gila Valley

By Jon Johnson


PIMA – The Pima High School held its commencement exercises Wednesday night on Edd Hubbard Football Field and once again demonstrated how a graduation ceremony should be held. 

Orderly yet fun, respectful yet playful, the event was a smooth affair that was highlighted by a moving performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” by Connor Hansen and Samantha McMahan. You can see the performance spliced with talks from the speakers by clicking play directly below.

Video By Jon Johnson/Gila Herald

The evening was bittersweet for Pima High School Principal Cody Barlow. 

“This was a good class,” he said. “They were sophomores when I started here, so I’ve got a little experience with this class and I really enjoy them. I hate to see them go and am glad at the same time.” 

After playful speeches by Raely Brown and Danika Derrick going over the history of the class – including advice to a fellow classmate on how not to flirt – and a quick motivational speech by Carlee Saline, salutatorian Moriah Guy spoke and illuminated one of the better positives of the people and students of Pima. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima School Board President congratulates graduate Dawson Pruszynski.

Guy said her family moved a lot during her schooling years and she became accustomed to “being the new kid” and suffering through lunchtimes being all alone. By the time she got to Pima, she said she had her handling of the situation down pat, but instead of being ostracized as the “new kid” she was welcomed warmly by the class. 

“I was all set to go and I was ready for the first awkward lunch day and then Sarah Lunt came and sat down right across from me with all her friends and just like totally welcomed me in,” Guy said. “It was really weird for me because it was a first. Like, normally, people don’t do that. And it was my first introduction to how kind and generous Pima can be.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Salutatorian Moriah Guy recalls her first impressions of Pima.

Dr. Seuss was, thankfully, not quoted in any of the speeches, but rather valedictorian Alani Blair quoted the Chinese philosopher Confucius about learning from one’s mistakes and failures and overcoming them and equated it to her class.

“Confucius, a Chineses philosopher, once said ‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall,’” Blair said. “As a class, we have been blessed to get to go throughout our school years together – just as you’ve heard. And we’ve been able to laugh together, learn together, succeed together, make memories together, fall together, and, most importantly, rise together. This is an exciting time in our lives where we get to move on to bigger and better things with our future while getting to reminisce on all the joyous memories we have made throughout our high school experience. But right now, let’s enjoy this moment, right here and right now.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Valedictorian Alani Blair gives a passionate speech to the class and guests.

As Barlow read off each graduate’s name to receive their diplomas, he included comments from the graduates themselves on what is next for them and also the number of college credits (some already into the 50s and 60s) they have already earned by jointly studying at Eastern Arizona College while still in high school. The answers varied in accordance with the various students, with most moving forward with advancing their schooling to the next level, serving a mission for their church, or having work opportunities, although graduate John “Popper” Hancock advised he was heading to South Beach in Miami with his dog “Kooter” to take the east coast by storm.

Superintendent Sean Rickert commented on the ability of the graduates and their readiness to move onto the next stage of their lives into adulthood. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Hats and confetti fly into the air at the culmination of the graduation festivities.

“It’s always exciting to me when you hear the number of college credits that these kids have earned while they are in high school,” Rickert said. “They are so prepared for what comes next. And that’s our goal, to make sure that the kids (who) come out of Pima High School are ready for a successful future. And this class is prepared like none other.” 

The evening on the football field ended with a bit of frivolity as not only hats but a graduate was tossed into the air along with poppers at the conclusion of the ceremony.  

Click here to view a photo album from the graduation.