Red Canyon grads often conquer a rocky road to commencement |

Red Canyon grads often conquer a rocky road to commencement

Lexy Diaz of the Red Canyon High School Class of 2017 gives the closing speech during the Graduation of the Class of 2017 on Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott. Red Canyon graduated 45 seniors in the Class of 2017.
Danyelle Wyrosdick | Special to the Daily |

Red Canyon scholarship winners

• Allie Armstrong — Tim Cochrane VFW Scholarship, Scott Reiter Memorial Scholarship.

• Jose Andrade — Rotary, YouthPower365 and Colorado Mountain College scholarships.

• Julie Tellez — Alpine Bank Hispanic-Latino scholarship.

• Anatole Arnold — Colorado Mountain College scholarship.

• Dustin Vigil — Colorado Mountain College scholarship.

WOLCOTT — Red Canyon High School’s graduation ceremony opened with an electric rock version of “Pomp & Circumstance,” a fitting tribute to students who had to overcome their own rocks and obstacles to arrive at commencement.

Graduate Tori Mitchell spoke to the enthusiastic 4 Eagle Ranch crowd about the importance of alternative programs such as Red Canyon and World Academy. Mitchell said she showed up at Red Canyon as a sophomore with almost no credits. She said through faculty compassion, guidance and hard work, she was graduating Friday morning — on time.

“I can tell you that if Red Canyon didn’t exist, I would not be standing here today ready to stride into the rest of my life,” Mitchell said.

True Grit

Grit is the difference between people who graduate and those who do not, said Red Canyon’s Troy Dudley.

“When many of you came to us, you had a lot of quit in you. You’d curl up in a little emotional ball. We did our best to knock it out of you,” Dudley said.

Grit is that extra something that separates the most successful from the rest, he said.

“Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, you’ll quit next time. Don’t quit just because it’s hard. Don’t stop pursuing a dream,” he said.

Graduation is always a bittersweet day for teachers and administrators, said Wade Hill, principal of Red Canyon and World Academy.

“When I signed your diplomas last week, I thought about each of you. Some tears, possibly some sarcasm. I hope you remember us as part of your story,” Hill said.

We made it!

Keynote speaker and Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek’s son William is a 2017 Red Canyon graduate.

“Like any parent, I sometimes wondered if we would survive to see this day,” van Beek said, joking.

Van Beek gave a nod to the rough road that Red Canyon graduates often survive. Red Canyon/World Academy students learn earlier than most that the status quo is often overrated.

“Life knocked you down and you had the fortitude to get up and take one more step,” van Beek said. “I’m very proud of the graduates, and I am also deeply grateful to the teaching staff. Your teachers, like your family, have faith in you.”

The local VFW Post gave away its annual Tim Cochrane Scholarship, presented by Betsy Cochrane and the VFW’s Patricia Hammon, a Vietnam War veteran, as was Tim, who served as a helicopter crew chief.

Allie Armstrong’s family has seen 10 members serve in the U.S. military and was this year’s winner.

“Tim had this larger-than-life personality, but didn’t really seek the spotlight. He used to say he wanted to do things for fun and for free,” Betsy Cochrane said. “Pay yourself forward and be part of something you’ll look back on and be proud.”

Keith Buckelew played the national anthem as Emily Wedel sang and returned to the stage to perform Green Day’s “Ordinary World.”

“Where can I find the city of shining light/ In an ordinary world?” Buckelew sang.

As each of the 45 graduates crossed the stage — teenagers with their futures before them, some already mothers and fathers looking toward their children’s futures — a faculty member shared a memory or two. Fellow graduate Lexy Diaz led them as they turned their tassels, and for Friday’s commencement, Red Canyon and World Academy graduates were that shining light.

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

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