Milford High Class of 2017 learned many life lessons

Photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Milford’s graduating Class of 2017 makes its way to the football field during the processional on Saturday.

MILFORD – The Milford High School Class of 2017 learned vital life lessons the hard way – through the pain of loss.

When they were in third grade, classmate Jaiden Tlapa died in an accident, and then this spring, beloved senior Kolby Kelley died of a sudden illness.

Speakers during graduation ceremonies on Saturday, June 17, said the losses help teach them the importance of treating each other well.

In her officer’s address to her 169 classmates, class President Jennifer Carson remembered back-to-back softball championships and winning Spirit Week four years in a row.

But more important, she said, they learned from their teachers, parents and peers to “always be kind.”

There were no rigid cliques in her class, and students went out of their way to help classmates who were having a bad day.

Kelley was born with Down syndrome, and in his principal’s address, Bradford Craven talked about how much the 18-year-old meant to the school community and to his family.

“He left a huge legacy,” Craven said. “His family delighted in his being, and Kolby’s mom gave him exquisite care. He was her gift and ours.”

Jaiden’s mother had been a student of Craven’s many years ago, and the principal remembered her as “vibrant, talented, strong, willful and determined.”

After Jaiden’s death, Holleigh Tlapa founded a nonprofit to support other local families who have lost children, and her strength has been an inspiration to the community, Craven said.

“We need to seek out the humanity of others … even in discord,” he said.

As an example of another legacy of love, Craven talked about graduating twins Edward and Edwin Makena, whose father was able to take his family from Kenya to America in 2005 after winning a green card in a contest of knowledge.

Valedictorian Lindsay Wright urged her classmates to be persistent in pursuing their dreams, citing Thomas Edison, who was fired from his first two jobs and whose teacher once called him “stupid.”

Make sure your dreams aren’t completely self-serving, she said, remembering Harriet Tubman, who freed herself from slavery and then went back to the South to free hundreds more slaves.

Christina Arnoldy and Katherine Ebbert, the masters of ceremonies, started off the speeches, joking about the class being “by far the best looking.”

The West Street Beat sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” before Paul Christensen, the school’s director of student services, recognized the 19 graduates who reached the summa cum laude academic level, including salutatorian Christina Arnoldy.

The Milford High mixed chorus sang the national anthem at the start of the ceremonies and later sang “The Climb.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or