Thursday, May 15, 2014

Roy senior in a class of her own


Audra Rivera has sent out about 300 invitations to her high school graduation, which will take place in the school gym Friday night. After the ceremony there will be a dinner and dance.

The ceremony itself should be short and sweet: Audra is the only member of the Roy High School Class of 2014.

“In seventh and eighth grade I actually had classmates,” Audra told me as she showed me around the school where she has been a student since the first grade.

The other kids moved away – a common story in Roy – and Audra was left as the only member of her freshman class. “I was the last one standing,” she says.

Over the next four years, no kids her age moved into Roy – another common story – and so she went through all four years of high school as the solo member of her class.

There are some perks to being the only senior. Audra was elected prom queen, no surprise. The prom was overloaded with boys by a 4-to-1 ratio, so she got to dance to nearly every song.

An array of dozens of photos of her life and high school career takes up an entire hallway wall just outside the school office. “My shrine,” Audra says.

Of the 88 lockers that line the high school hallway, she got to choose locker No. 1.

And she got to pick the themes of the class of 2014. Class color: maroon and white. Class flower: the blue rose. Class song: “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Class motto: “It’s really long,” Audra says. “I can’t really remember it.”

Roy sits at a highway crossroads in northeastern New Mexico, just south of the Kiowa grasslands and about 60 miles west of the Texas state line. The trend in isolated ranching communities is decampment. The U.S. Census counted 304 people in Roy in 2000. Ten years later, the count was 234. (Audra has made friends in a wide swath of Harding County, which is why her high school graduation invitation list outpaced the village’s population.)

The village educates all its children under one roof. Elementary school has 34 kids this year, including five kindergartners. Audra is joined by 13 classmates in grades 7 through 12.

“I bet you can name them all,” I venture.

“I can,” Audra says. “Do you want me to?”

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