Red Canyon graduates largest class ever |

Red Canyon graduates largest class ever

A Graduate of Red Canyon High School Class of 2015, presents the senior her speech during the graduation ceremony. With (#?) seniors graduating this year, it was the largest graduating class RCHS has had.
Chelsea Tuttle |

Red Canyon scholarship winners

Rotary Scholarship: Edith Gonzalez

VFW/Tim Cochrane Scholarship: Eric Lucas

Alpine Bank Hispanic/Latino Scholars: Karely Varela

Colorado Mountain College Scholarship: Sarah Crabtree, Nick Martinez, Edith Gonzalez, Karely Varela, Eric Lucas, Jennifer Velasco

Youth Foundation: Jesse Garcia, Karely Varela

Screaming Eagle Scholarship: Karely Varela

Robert Scott Reiter Scholarship: Sarah Crabtree

Red Canyon High School’s graduation is a celebration that opens with heavy metal processional and a standing ovation and ends with Alice Cooper belting out “School’s Out!”

As their 56 graduates made their way to their seats, the crowd was too proud to sit, so they stood and applauded. Then Austen Davis amazed and silenced the place when he played the national anthem on a banjo, continuing a grand Red Canyon tradition that has seen “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed on electric guitars and sung a cappella and solo.

In his charge to the class, Troy Dudley summed up the graduates’ day of transition.

“This is the youngest you’re ever going to be. Enjoy it. It’s also the oldest you’ve ever been, so start acting like it,” Dudley said.

All graduates must overcome some hurdles, Red Canyon grads more than many.

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“This is not a typical high school, it’s more like a family. And like a family you won’t like everyone all the time. But we always have each other’s back,” Jesse Garcia said.

“The cycle is like life, and like the changing seasons. We can’t change the seasons, but we can change ourselves,” graduate Edith Gonzalez said. “Some of us saw some hard seasons … winter always comes, but so does spring.”

Dragon Magic

What people don’t get is the magic of the place, said Mike Gass, assistant superintendent.

The dragon, a symbol of magic, is Red Canyon’s mascot, he pointed out.

Red Canyon started in the Berry Creek Middle School building, at nights and on weekends. Red Canyon now has one of the lowest teacher turnover rates of any school in the district, and the students are the reason. It’s also one of the top 10 alternative choice schools in Colorado, in any way it’s measured, Gass said.

“No one will hold your hand here, but everyone will have your back,” Angel Ramirez said.

Gass, long an advocate for alternative education, is headed to Telluride as their new superintendent. It seemed right that one of his last official duties was to address the school he helped start, pointing out that Red Canyon graduate Jake Hedley started in a preschool.

His keynote address went like this:

“The wisdom of Mike Gass, as I learned it from Eagle County Schools:”

Outlive me. I’ve had a great life, but don’t miss a moment.

The most important career choice you’ll make is who you choose to spend the rest of your life with. You’ll spend your years pushing toward goals, and

Stay connected. If you can count five friends – not just Facebook friends – among those you’ve stayed in contact with in 20 years, you can count it a success.

Hindsight is free.

Lots of things that will make you happy and there’s no substitute for time. Too many times you’ll look back and say ‘what if.’

Pay it forward. Do good for no reason other than making the world a better place.

It might take you 10 years to become an overnight sensation.

Keep your head down when you win, and your head up when you lose.

Things you do will leave a mark. Make it a good one.

Be glad sometimes life isn’t fair. Everybody deserves a do-over once in a while.

Be an underdog. They have the best stories.

Be agile. Pack light and love heavy.

“You only live once, so get out there and outlive me,” Gass said.

Brenda Jimenez thanked their parents and children.

“You have pushed us to be independent and now we’re ready to face adulthood. Let’s thank them for being tough and gruff when it mattered most,” Jimenez said.

Tassel turning time

And with that came what principal Wade Hill called, “the audience participation portion of the ceremony.”

“Let’s give out some diplomas!” Hill shouted … and the crowd went wild.

As Hill and the teachers read a short blurb about each one, the grads crossed the stage, picked up their diplomas, shook a long lineup of well-wishing hands.

They returned to their seats, and in the last act they’d do together, turned their tassels from right to left and strode confidently into the rest of their lives.

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

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