BY PETE MOHR  |  MAY 27, 2015

Cactus Shadows graduated 404 seniors, May 21, at Grand Canyon University’s Arena

Class of 2015 members awarded scholarships/financial aid totaling $12.3 million, a new CSHS record

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cshs graduating class 2015All graduation systems were "GO" as the Class of 2015 posed for its traditional photo, this year at Grand Canyon University Arena.
Courtesy photo by Ryan Boyd

CSHS – In a student’s K-12 years, there’s no event more celebratory than his/her high school graduation, more than confirmed by the 404 seniors who graduated Cactus Shadows, the evening of May 21, at Grand Canyon University’s Arena, a state-of-the-art new facility that opened in 2011. The Class of 2015 became Cactus Shadows’ 30th graduating class and the first to hold its commencement at Grand Canyon. Why the relocation from Phoenix First Assembly to GCU?

From 2007-2014, Phoenix First Assembly (N. Cave Creek Road in north Phoenix) had functioned as an efficient graduation venue; but after 2014’s “standing room only” attendance, it became evident to CCUSD and CSHS graduation coordinators that Cactus Shadows’ commencement had outgrown Phoenix First’s seating capacity.

Belated congratulations to Principal Steve Bebee on earning his doctorate in education from Grand Canyon. Henceforth address him as “Doctor BeBee”! In a telephone interview with Sonoran News, he critiqued, “We’ll be fine-tuning certain details between now and next graduation; but overall, we were very pleased with our new venue. Our event contacts there were easy to work with; and I can assure you, it was a relief to look out from the stage and see that there was ample seating for all of our guests.”

The evening’s only disappointment was the unavoidable absence of CCUSD Superintendent Dr. Debbi Burdick, who had been called to the side of a critically ill family member in Chicago. Dr. Burdick communicated her congratulations to the Class through a video presentation.

CSHS Music Director Gary Wycoff conducted Honors Choir’s always-stirring performance of our National Anthem, followed by Principal Bebee’s welcoming remarks, which were highlighted by his congratulations and encouragements to the Class. Principal Bebee had compelling motivation to do so; for at Senior Awards Night, May 18, Cave Creek Fine Arts Center, he had proudly announced that members of the Class of ’15 had been awarded scholarship and financial aid totaling in excess of $12.3 million, a new record for a Cactus Shadows graduating class. Sonoran News congratulates all award recipients and their faculty sponsors/advocates who supported them.

The Class gave its most enthusiastic responses to good-humored reminiscences of Class successes (and missteps!) from its peers: Valedictorian Michelle Hugo, Co-Salutatorians Sam Slack and Jennalee Beazley and Student Body President Ryan Boyd. Congratulations to these seniors on their academic excellence, and to President Boyd for his successful leadership of the student body.

Finally (or so it seemed!) graduation candidates, by individual name, were called to the stage to receive their diploma certificates. CCUSD Board Members assisted in this presentation. When the Class had returned to its seats, graduation caps were exultantly tossed high!

Winding down to the end of this article, I found myself pondering this question: beyond the usual “no-brainer” congratulations and good wishes, how can I, writing five days after the excitement of graduation, meaningfully encourage the Class of 2015? I’m sobered by the recognition that most of you are at least 60 years younger than myself!

My answer comes in the form of sharing with you well-deserved accolades to two of my admired Cactus Shadows friends, hoping that by the example of how they live, ’15 may be encouraged to embrace certain of what I call “principles for living.” I guarantee these will help you successfully take on the challenges of your post-graduation lives.

I extend my first tribute to Ms. Peggy Bach, Executive Administrative Assistant in Cactus Shadows’ main office. Many of you may not have had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Bach, but I have – since my first visit to CSHS in mid-April 1999. For 32 years, through good times and bad, Peggy has never missed a beat. She lives by the self-disciplines of an even temperament, workplace diligence, unselfishness with colleagues and, above all, loyalty to Cactus Shadows. Peggy, may your retirement years treat you as generously as you have all in your Cactus Shadows orbit – from Principal Bebee down to this nettlesome reporter! From my Navy days, I wish you “smooth seas and following winds.”

My second shout-out goes to a ‘15er, perhaps one of the most courageous young persons I’ve encountered in my 78 years. Your classmate would, I know, insist upon anonymity; but I’m confident that many of you have gotten to know him over these last four years. For too many of his soon-to-be 19 years, he has battled for his life against seemingly impossible medical odds. By his Faith, devotion to family, steadfast resolve and dogged tenacity, he has triumphed! In his vocabulary, you’ll find neither “self-pity” nor “quit.” If I had the requisite authority from Drs. Burdick and Bebee, I would award him summa cum laude distinction.

So it is, ‘15ers, that I commend to your thoughtful attention the examples in living of Peggy Bach and your classmate. Their legacies, modestly unknown to them, will serve you well.

Now, in golden oldies-speak, it’s “Sum-sum-summertime! Sum-sum-summertime!” Be well, stay safe and have a great Graduation Summer!

cshs 2015 gradsPhotographed at graduation were (l-r) Co-Salutatorian Sam Slack, Valedictorian Michelle Hugo, Principal Steve Bebee, Student Council Advisor Cameron Bender and Student Body President Ryan Boyd. (Not available for photo:  Co-Salutatorian Jennalee Beazley and Student Council Advisor Allison Zilka.)
Courtesy photo by Ryan Clyde