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The delightful dozen

CVR NAS graduation KA 6-11-11
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GYPSUM, Colorado – No commencement walk signified a journey like the 12 New America High School graduates have made.

At Saturday’s graduation ceremonies, the faculty introduced each member of the class of 2011 with a quick rundown about what each accomplished and had to go through to earn their place in that commencement line.

More than 85 percent live on their own. Some are already raising families. A few left family in other parts of the country, and the world, to attend school here. Almost all are working full time.

They plan to attend college, go into medicine, the military, become entrepreneurs and run their own businesses.

They’ve changed their own lives through hard work, and they’ll change others, Principal Kathy Brendza said.

“They are some of the nicest kids I have ever encountered,” she said.

Typical growth for a high school student is one year of advancement over an academic year. New America students more than double that, Brendza said, and the school’s test results bear her out.

“Our students are demonstrating two to four years’ growth in all academic areas,” Brendza said. “I cannot say enough about my staff and their passion for our students.”

The New American High School faculty and staff make up a small but spirited group of seven dedicated souls, including the office manager and custodian.

Helicopters and high-fives

The valedictorian, Jesus Alberto Ontiveros, rode in on a helicopter. As he and the others walked in, Ontiveros was high-fived by friends and family members.

They know how to make an entrance.

His speech shifted seamlessly back and forth between English and Spanish, as he admonished his classmates to take advantage of their educations, to go boldly as they create their futures.

Their commencement speaker, Scott Green, knows about creating a better future for himself and his family. He owns his own company and was president of the school board when New America School was launched. He still serves on its board of directors.

“Scott is a great role model for us,” said graduating senior Vaneza Serna, who introduced Green.

Green is the son of a migrant worker. His mother died when he was 6 years old, and he and his siblings followed their father to road construction jobs and building sites. Green attended 13 schools, eventually graduating from Eagle Valley High School.

“I was not the most likely to succeed, but there was a drive to be more and give back to the community,” Green said.

You can learn something every day of your life, Green told the graduates. Take that opportunity, he said.

“Every day you wake up, you have an opportunity to learn,” Green said.

There will be bumps in the road because life is filled with unexpected challenges, he said.

“It comes down to how you handle those opportunities and challenges,” Green said. “This is the first step in a great journey. You’ve been looking forward to this day for many years.”

And with that, the dozen graduates rose proudly to their feet and walked across the stage when their names were called. They picked up their diplomas from Superintendent Sandra Smyser, shook hands with some school board members, got a big hug from Brendza and dean of students Bob Darnell, turned their tassels from left to right to signify their graduation and strode confidently into the rest of their lives.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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