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RHS grads address difficulties of pandemic year

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Roswell High School class of 2021 Co-valedictorian Gwendolyn Rose Keller speaks Friday evening at graduation ceremonies at the Wool Bowl. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Among the memories, expressions of gratitude to family and teachers, and advice for the future at Roswell High School’s graduation ceremonies Friday night, a Roswell High School graduate challenged her classmates to make the world more beautiful.

In her address, class of 2021 Co-valedictorian Gwendolyn Rose Keller spoke of the “danger of the word ‘we,’” drawing on personal experience with discrimination and events of the past year such as violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic, the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“This ‘we’ followed me around the last few years: ‘We don’t do things like that, we don’t dress that way, we don’t talk like that, we knew, we just forgot, we just don’t care,’” she said.

“Within this past year, Americans have witnessed the danger of ‘we.’ That ‘we’ has been felt across the world,” she said.

She challenged her fellow classmates “to embrace a more beautiful ‘we’” by including people of different backgrounds in their lives and having the courage to grow.

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“We are all human beings, and we need each other,” she said.

Salutatorian Emily Tucker offered thanks to teachers and especially family members for guiding them through their school years, in particular this last year when much of school was conducted remotely.

“To our parents, thank you for sticking with us through our attitude, hard times, craziness and helping us become successful,” she said.

Co-valedictorian Ashton Keir Smith spoke of the school events that shaped their lives such as sports, prom and homecoming and addressed their senior year taking place during a pandemic.

“We lost so many chances to have many of these events, but I believe it will help us to be more appreciative of the things we do have,” she said.

RHS conferred diplomas to 231 graduates including 18 who achieved highest honors and 60 who achieved high honors. Five students received the New Mexico Biliteracy Seal, signifying proficiency in two or more languages.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.