Class of 2020 is Red Canyon High School’s ‘class of the strong’ |

Class of 2020 is Red Canyon High School’s ‘class of the strong’

Learning adaptability was graduates' most important lesson

To Watch All Eagle County School District Commencements are being broadcast on local public access television Channel 5, High Five Media, They’re also available for viewing on demand.
  • Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy - Saturday, May 23, 7:30 p.m.
  • Red Canyon High School - Friday, May 29, 10 a.m.
  • Battle Mountain High School - Friday, May 29, 5 p.m.
  • Eagle Valley High School - Saturday, May 30, at 9 a.m.
Red Canyon Award Winners
Seal of Biliteracy: Yesenia Rincon Castanon, Bibiana Serna Chavez, Jocelyn Ortiz Medina
CareerWise Colorado: Alex Ramirez, Yesenia Rincon Castanon, Diego Zarate
VWF Scholarship: Hoyt Benson
Crawlin' to a Cure Scholarship: Crystal Diaz
Vail-Edwards-Eagle Rotary Clubs Scholarships: Crystal Diaz, Jonah Wolansky, Simon Lepich, Bibiana Serna Chavez
WIN CC Scholarships: Jocelyn Ortiz Medina & Bibiana Serna Chavez
Colorado Mountain College Scholarships: Andrew Macaulay, Crystal Diaz, Hoyt Benson, Jonah Wolansky, Loretta Fischer, Miranda Hammer, Patricia Solis, Kevin Carlson
Alpine Bank Hispanic-Latino Scholarship: Alexza Montes Gonzalez

Like its Dragon mascot, Red Canyon High School is magical.

Red Canyon and World Academy graduates celebrate commencement, opening with a heavy metal version of the “Pomp and Circumstance” processional and shifting to the national anthem — this year played flawlessly by Hoyt Benson on his electric guitar. One year Austen Davis played it on a banjo.

Rising to their lives’ challenges

Life can be challenging in most years, and certainly for the Class of 2020, Miranda Hammer said in her commencement address. Graduates were born in the wake of 9/11, started elementary school as the economy crashed in 2007, and hit middle school just after the Boston Marathon bombing. They started high school as school shootings became abnormally normal. And now they finish their senior year amid a worldwide pandemic, Hammer said.

“Through every hardship and struggle we’ve gotten stronger, we’ve stayed positive, and we’ve grown. Some believe that bruises and scars diminish one’s strength, but to us, it’s a sign of strength,” Hammer said. “We’ve seen some trying times in our lives, but whatever life throws at us we can get through it.”

Martin Velazco is looking at the bright side. “We can say we’re the first to virtually graduate, the first to have a 5-month long summer vacation and first to realize that being in a classroom is pretty cool! And never in a million years will I say that again.”

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Adaptability: The most important skill

All that coupled with their Red Canyon education taught them adaptability, probably the most important skill they can carry into their futures, Tom Gladitsch said in his keynote address.

Gladitsch taught at Red Canyon for more than a decade and a half, and said COVID-19 virus changed everything.

“You are good at dealing with change and it will make you good at life after high school,” Gladitsch said. “There is one thing I’m certain of. Red Canyon graduates are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this new normal, because you have mastered the art of adapting.”

Bibiana Serna Chavez shifted seamlessly back and forth between English and Spanish as she spoke to graduates and their families, reminding them to never give up, to look up and keep moving forward. She said her only regret is not coming to Red Canyon sooner. She made the move as a junior when she became a mother, and said her Red Canyon family made her a better mother.

Red Canyon and World Academy teachers might or might not hold your hand, but they’ll always have your back, Mandilyn Laidman said.

“This graduation fits right into my crazy unplanned life,” Laidman said. “No one planned to graduate virtually, but we’re making the best of it, and no matter what obstacles you face for the rest of your life, make the best of it.”

The faculty and staff presented the graduates, offering praise and encouragement about each one as the graduates’ pictures flashed across the screen.

“With high school in the rearview, you’re now the ‘Mister’ and ‘Miss’ of your life lessons,” Blake Wiehe said as he and Jeff Duggan gave the charge to the Class of 2020.

Red Canyon started in the Berry Creek Middle School building at nights and on weekends. Mark Strakbein started it. Wade Hill ran it for 17 years and added online school World Academy, before taking over Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. Red Canyon graduations are special, Principal Troy Dudley said.

“Your belief in what we do makes this special day possible,” Dudley said.

“The Class of 2020 will be the class of the strong … don’t let anyone tear you down,” Alex Perez Ramirez said.

And with that they turned their tassels from right to left, and strode confidently into the rest of their lives.

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