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"Thanks for believing in us when no one else would."

The unofficial theme of the 13th annual commencement ceremonies for Valley High School Wednesday night was both a spoken and silent expression of gratitude many parents and family members had waited years to hear.Packed into the auditorium at Eastmont Middle School, nearly 1,400 well-wishers cheered and cried as 105 of the 125 Valley High graduates filed triumphantly into the hall to the strains of a 1970s rock ballad.

Draped in navy and steel blue caps and gowns, the graduates filled the stage and listened intently as fellow classmates praised the teachers who helped each of them turn their lives around.

Addressing the official theme, Tawna Reich told the audience "There was `One Moment in Time' when I felt there was no hope for me. After three years of struggling through the crowded hallways at Alta (High School), I didn't want to live another day thinking I was incapable of learning."

Though she and her mother described an epileptic condition she suffered to school officials, no accommodations were made for Reich's illness. "I became very suicidal and my feelings weren't feelings any more. They became numb thoughts of always wanting to die."

It was at that point, when Reich knew she wouldn't graduate from Alta, that her mother suggested Valley High. "I thought it was a school for dropouts and losers, which didn't matter because that's the way I felt at that time. Now I know that's not true. The teachers at Valley gave me a chance to express myself and valued my opinion . . . Students here aren't clones for their peers, but individuals with opinions worth listening to."

Reich said that because Valley teachers work individually with each student, tailoring programs to student needs, "I feel that me and the rest of my class are now able to be what we want to be."

Travis Roderick echoed Reich's sentiments, describing his own struggle with traditional schooling and his belief that he would never get a high school diploma. "The flexibility at Valley has allowed me to work and still hold down a full-time job. It has offered us all a comfortable atmosphere to fit in and be accepted for what we are."

As a young father with job and family responsibilities, Roderick praised the teachers who worked around his schedule and "taught me about life the way it really is."

Corrina Valdez said she came to Valley after being disillusioned by peers who drew her out of their circle, by teachers who were always too busy to care about her.

"But the biggest reason was my own fault. I got really good at sloughing classes, and I almost lost my life in a car accident while my friends and I were cutting class, but I didn't learn from that."

She found teachers at Valley who cared about her as an individual. As a result, she and her classmates have already "had a peek at reality."

Principal Clyde Mellberg joined Jordan District Superintendent Raymond Whittenburg and board member Maurine Jensen in praising the graduates.

After the diplomas were presented, Jackie S. Sorich, who spent four years at Valley, received a $1,500 Trustee Scholarship to Weber State College and a $500 cash scholarship for academic achievement from Utah Power & Light. Charles Crockett received a $1,700 scholarship to Sheldon Jackson College and Robin McDonald received the faculty award for greatest personal improvement.