Red Canyon High School celebrates this year’s in-person graduation |

Red Canyon High School celebrates this year’s in-person graduation

Graduates honored with speeches, balloons, plenty of long hugs

Red Canyon seniors graduate Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch near Wolcott.
Chris Dillmann/

Even before he turned his tassel from right to left, Red Canyon High School senior Phillip Gallegos showed he’s ready to walk confidently into the rest of his life.

Gallegos delivered the senior message at Friday’s graduation ceremony at 4 Eagle Ranch for students of both Red Canyon and World Academy. Gallegos talked about what he and other students had lived through in getting to graduation day, but also put a strong focus on the future. That’s an often-overlooked part of graduation, which is an end, but an even more significant beginning.

The Red Canyon Class of 2021 tosses mortar boards in the air after receiving diplomas Friday near Wolcott.
Chris Dillmann/

Toward the end of his speech, Gallegos’ microphone went dead. Without missing a beat, he stepped up from behind the podium and loudly proclaimed:

“It’s not gonna be easy, but no one said it would be!

“It’s not gonna be easy, but you are prepared!

“It’s not gonna be easy, but it will be well worth it!”

The reaction was loud, raucous and encouraging.

Ann Constien, an English teacher at Red Canyon High School, gives the keynote address for the Class of 2021 on Friday near Wolcott.
Chris Dillmann/

Encouragement is essential

Encouragement is a big part of the solid foundation Red Canyon High School has built over the years.

The school is one students choose for smaller class sizes, more personal attention — even in a pandemic — and, yes, plenty of encouragement.

In her remarks, graduate Taylor Macik noted she transferred into Red Canyon in the middle of her junior year.

“It was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Macik said.

But motivation can be elusive, even when students choose their education.

The colors are presented Friday at the beginning of Red Canyon's Class of 2021 commencement ceremony near Wolcott.
Chris Dillmann/

Graduate Mariana Aguirre’s remarks noted that motivation came from both family and faculty at Red Canyon.

“Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Aguirre told her mother from the stage.

Graduate Gabi Escobar acknowledged that “I wasn’t the easiest, nor the nicest student to work with.” However, “You all assured me that I wasn’t alone and you never let me give up.”

As each of the 61 graduates — six from World Academy, nine from the high school diploma equivalency class and 46 from Red Canyon — received their diplomas, teachers offered a few kind words, and words of encouragement, about each graduate.

Lorenzo Molinar plays the national anthem on guitar at the start of the Red Canyon commencement ceremony Friday.
Chris Dillmann/

Teacher Ann Constien, a founding staff member who is retiring this year, praised graduate Lorenzo Molinar’s love of Marvel Comics, old cars and classic rock.

Teacher Monica Lammers said thinking of graduate Victor Sosa “always puts a smile on my face. … His quick wit, coupled with his focus and ability to tend to details, will get him far in life.”

One heck of a movie

Teacher Elijah Alexander’s class charge to the students likened the past year to a movie.

Noting that Red Canyon is viewed as a place for “at-risk” students, Alexander instead called for a different view of the term.

“What if being ‘at risk’ really means taking risks in pursuit of happiness, toward the fulfillment of dreams, being ‘at risk’ of being truly alive?”

Alexander thanked the students for redefining “at-risk” as “at-risk-of-promise.”

It’s up to each individual to determine what that promise is, Alexander said.

“There is no stopping here,” Alexander said. “No resting. There’s no going back to before you graduated. It’s a downhill glide for a minute or two and then it’s back up the next mountain. Graduation is not a destination, but it is a benchmark, a monumental step forward in the journey of your lives.”

Scholarship recipients

This year’s Red Canyon High School and World Academy scholarship awards went to:

Work Ready Certificates: Kaylee Polaschak, Gabi Escobar, Kathy Saenz.

VFW Scholarship honoring Amadeo Gonzalez: Taylor Macik.

Colorado Mountain College: Maddie Qualman.

CMC/Alpine Bank First Generation: Emanuel Avila.

Daughters of the American Revolution: Taylor Macik.

YouthPower365: Taylor Macik.

Red Canyon High School Scholarship for Excellence and Resilience: Gil Velasco, Kaylee Polascak, Leslie Hernandez, Lorenzo Molinar.

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