Biggest Red Canyon High class celebrates
EAGLE COUNTY – Stella Pacheco stood in the steadily-warming sun at 4Eagle Ranch, holding a small bouquet of roses meant for her grandson, Daniel Trujillo.Pacheco had traveled from New Mexico to see her grandson throw his cap in the air with 27 other graduates of Red Canyon High School. Trujillo had a large cheering section at Friday’s graduation, including his aunt, Vivian Sanchez, a member of Red Canyon’s first graduating class in 2002.Sanchez finished her high school career at Red Canyon the same year nephew started there. Four years later, Trujillo said he couldn’t really remember why he started at Red Canyon. “They kind of made me go,” he said.Trujillo’s mom, Diane Pacheco, remembers.
“He’s always been a kid who wanted to do more,” she said. “He wanted to work and go to school, and some of his friends were at Red Canyon.”Trujillo is the kind of student Red Canyon is designed for. A lot of students at the school want to work. For others, a regular high school setting just won’t work for one reason or another. Many wouldn’t have a high school degree if not for the programs at Red Canyon.”This is a second chance, or a third chance, for some of these kids,” said Mike Gass, director of middle school and high school curriculum for the Eagle County School District.While some of the kids struggle, others want to finish their high school course work early, to get a head start on adult life.”I made a promise to my unborn son I’d graduate early,” Amalia Vasquez said. Her son, now 2 years old, will get to see his mom go to Mesa State College in Grand Junction.
Others wanted more than what normal high school course work could provide.”I was getting As and Bs at Eagle Valley, but I wasn’t learning anything,” Mandy Fischer said. “I wanted to go deeper.”That’s where the course work comes in. Students who work, or work at their own pace, still have to take standardized tests and hit other educational milestones through their high school careers. But the courses can accelerate or slow down to match how individual students learn.Some strong bonds are formed in the process. With just 28 graduates and only 10 teachers, Red Canyon’s graduation ceremony has time for students to talk up their teachers, and vice versa.Those bonds tend to last, too.Mark Strakbein, now the principal at Eagle Valley, was the boss at Red Canyon until late last school year, but his knowledge of this year’s seniors informed every word of his speech. Asking students to stand up in pairs, Strakbein offered a bit of advice to all of them.
For Lucas Vasquez and Ian Agneberg, Strakbein’s advice focused on creativity.”Help others see the world as a beautiful place,” he told them.Strakbein told Cesar Gonzalez and Harrison Brown to use their charisma to change the world.That focus on individuals ran through the ceremony, with students and teachers addressing each other as friends and colleagues in front of several hundred guests.The impact the more personal approach had on the students was told over and over again in their speeches. In her remarks, Dani Walker told the crowd about the effect teacher Troy Dudley had.”I had no dreams, no direction,” Walker said of her first days at Red Canyon. “Now I have dreams of being a lawyer. That’s how much he’s changed my life.”
What Dudley and other teachers see is kids motivated to go out and take the world by storm. “You’re all way ahead of where I was when I graduated from high school,” Dudley said. “You are ready.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
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