A whole lot of graduating went on up & down the valley this weekend…  all local high school seniors wrapped up their careers, while underclassmen may still have a few days to go before being out for the summer.  Ceremonies began with the Bridges alternative high school in Carbondale Friday, where co-valedictorian Adele Craft noted that she’d chosen the school before she started, and done all 4 of her years there.  She said she’d found lifelong friends and more there–  she encouraged her classmates to “Dare to be different.”  Craft has already worked ahead as well, already achieving an associates’ degree from Colorado Mountain College.  Bridges’ 2 other co-valedictorians were Samantha Hankinson and Hannah Hayden.  There were those highs, but a low also…  as those gathered for the ceremony at the Orchard Church also heard from the brother of junior Ayleen Ruiz Alvarado.  Ayleen was the student killed in a traffic crash near Carbondale a few weeks ago.  The driver of the car she was ejected from is charged with vehicular homicide and other crimes.

The valley’s other commencements came Saturday.  Roaring Fork graduated its biggest class ever, with 82 teens getting diplomas.  And that’s the entire class of 2017 that started 4 years ago…  a 100% graduation rate!  Co-valedictorian Tavia Teitler, who’s heading to Stanford in Palo Alto, California, offered her speech in both English and Spanish.  More than half her classmates are of Latino heritage.  She urged all to get to know someone different than themselves, and to go make a difference in the world right away…  not necessarily waiting to become “an adult.”   Joining her at the top of the class was Nick Penzel.  He’s been paying attention, saying he’s filled with apprehension these days, but also suggested that classmates let compassion and love shine through the darkness.   At Glenwood Springs High, the 2017 class that numbered 191 heard from the freshman essay of late classmate Evan Carrington, who was killed in an accident last year, that even Scout, a key character in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” struggled to get folks to see truth.  Evan had written “she learns for the first time that evidence, facts, and truth have no sway over prejudice and bias.”  So English teacher Lisa Hartert advised the class to go “Be A Scout,” as far as being hopeful throughout life.  Memorialized along with Carrington was another late classmate, Johnny Gomez.  The Glenwood valedictorian was Kieran LaMee, who along with his sister were one of 4 pairs of twins in the class.  There were also 2 sets of triplets graduating.   At Basalt, the class of 2017 had 73 members.  One of its 2008 grads, Luis Morales, came back from his counseling position at a Denver elementary school to recount his struggles…  arriving at Basalt before his junior year from LA, getting booted out of CU after a bar fight, getting it together at Metro State, and eventually gaining his degree back at CU.  Morales asked the class what each of them would do with their opportunities…  saying his purpose is to serve his community.  Valedictorians there were Clayton Montgomery and Daniel Barnes.   And at Aspen High, the school’s 128th class sent 134 seniors into the world, a group recognized for doing some 10,000 hours of community service work in its senior year alone.  The valedictorian was Keegan Mehall, the guest speaker noted local author Jill Sheeley.  Several of the grads there offered musical performances to their classmates.

Arguments are said to have been spirited, in some cases just plain loud and obnoxious last Thursday, as the Eagle County Commissioners again heard in El Jebel about that so-called “Tree Farm” development landowner “Ace” Lane wants to build directly across Highway 82 from Willits.  Backers claimed it would provide necessary afforable housing–  opponents countered that the figures in the proposal would be far from affordable to anyone who’s not wealthy.  The Roaring Fork Valley Planning Commission has voted unanimously to recommend Eagle County deny the project, and the town of Basalt’s strongly opposed, too.  The commissioners tabled any decision again…  they’ll be back for another meeting on the 26th.

Remember, as we told you last week, Hanging Lake and its trail are closed this week, now until midnight Friday.  Some routine trail work is being done there, with dangerous trees being removed, new steps to the waterfall being built, and more.  It’ll reopen at midnight Friday, for the weekend.  And the Forest Service plans to announce late this month, a plan to potentially set up a ticketing and shuttle bus service from Glenwood, to try and get a little control over the site and cut into the massive crowds that some feel are fouling the attractiveness everyone loves about Hanging Lake.  That’ll be an effort to preserve it.