Red Canyon celebrates its 10th commencement in Wolcott |

Red Canyon celebrates its 10th commencement in Wolcott

NWS RCHS Graduation 1 DT 6-3-11

WOLCOTT, Colorado – Red Canyon High School’s commencement opened with a heavy metal version of “Pomp and Circumstance,” ended with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” and it just got better in between.

The alternative high school is 10 years old this year. On a bright, beautiful Colorado morning at 4 Eagle Ranch, 24 seniors walked across the stage to pick up their hard-earned diplomas, turned their tassels from left to right, and headed toward whatever is next in their lives.

As the ceremony opened, Jason Fackler strapped on his electric guitar and rolled out a rockin’ and respectful version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A Veterans of Foreign Wars color guard stood at attention, saluting, while the crowd looked at the flag and the green fields and snow-capped Sawatch Range beyond.

It was an alternative commencement for the county’s alternative high school.

Speakers talked about success and failure, and how you cannot appreciate the former without the latter.

“It’s important to learn from failure. It’s an opportunity,” Red Canyon principal Wade Hill said as the event got rolling.

The graduates received their diplomas as teachers and staff gave a brief introduction and tribute. Hill insisted that their futures are unlimited – which was nice, and has the added benefit of being true.

“It is relationships, not programs, that change children,” Hill told the proud crowd.

Carlene Frausto and Azucena Dominguez laid out Red Canyon’s norms – not rules, but norms that students and staff are expected to live by, and they correspond with the school’s initials: respect, community, honor, self-discipline.

“We did not present these norms to you at Red Canyon to make you more tolerable,” Troy Dudley said to a laughing crowd, “but so you’ll take them with you into your lives.”

Local veterans run a program at Red Canyon teaching students what military life is really like. It’s much more, and much different, than anything you see in the recruiting posters, the veterans teach.

Vietnam veteran Pat Hammon, who helps teach the class, thanked the seniors in her keynote speech for their patience when the veterans became emotional in class and their stories got difficult to tell.

She encouraged peace, as only one could when they’ve experienced war. Among Pat’s pearls:

• Never let anyone tell you something is not attainable. It just takes guts and stamina.

• The world does not have to be like it is today. Conflict and war, hunger and poverty. It starts in our hearts. Learn to wage peace at a very early age.

• Everyone leaves a mark in this world, everyone makes a difference. Neil Armstrong’s footsteps will remain on the moon for centuries. You’ll leave footprints as you travel through life, and they’ll last just as long.

“May you all go in peace in the world,” said Hammon, a Vietnam veteran and nurse who helped put soldiers back together after they had been blown to pieces.

Aja Cederberg, Mackenzie Nock and Jessica Osterfoss offered the senior message.

“We all came here from different backgrounds, but we have become family,” they said. “Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Give opportunity a chance. Leave no room for regrets.”

“Perseverance is why we’re standing here today,” they said.

“Like the past few years, we do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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