John Stroud

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May 29, 2010
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Crossing their bridge to a brighter future

CARBONDALE, Colorado - If the Bridges High School Class of 2010 was looking for a less-than-traditional commencement address suited for a non-traditional high school, co-valedictorian Sophie Sakson was eager to oblige.

Sakson spent four years at a performing arts school before returning to her hometown to finish her high school credits at Bridges this school year.

An accomplished dancer and actor already, the alternative high school in Carbondale serving at-risk and gifted students in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 from Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, was the perfect place for Sakson to earn her diploma.

"I have to be really honest with you; if I learned anything this year it's that it's extremely difficult to lie on stage," she professed during the Friday afternoon commencement exercises for 34 Bridges graduates, held on the lawn outside the Bridges Center.

"But, it depends on how you define a lie," she said.

Take actors, for instance.

"Some of you may have noticed I've gained a little weight this year, and that it was sometimes hard for me to get to school in the morning, and that I've been absent from a lot of parties," Sakson continued.

"Well, I have a little mystery to unveil for you all," she said, removing her graduation gown to reveal an apparently pregnant belly beneath her dress.

Sakson played the part a bit longer, invoking the words of filmmaker and actor Woody Allen: "It's clear that the future holds a lot of great opportunities, and it also holds a lot of pitfalls," she recited. "Avoid the pitfalls."

The pregnancy bit was, of course, a ruse. She later revealed the bulge on her belly to be a pillow.

Turning to Bridges Principal Lyn Bair, Sakson offered: "Thanks for bridging me, and for bridging all my friends over here. And thank you for letting me be a part of that bridging process.

"To all of my classmates, this being an unusual high school, I hope to see all of you under unusual and awkward circumstances in the future."

Co-valedictorian Jacob Russo performed two original songs for his classmates and the assembly of faculty members, school district officials, parents and friends.

Salutatorian Matthew Piccolo also was unwilling to give the traditional graduation address. Instead of the "cliche" memories, reflections, inspirations and advice about the future, he instead called out each faculty member one by one with a special tribute.

Class speaker Emily Gentry, who co-founded and served as president of Bridges' first-ever student council this year, told her own "wayward teen" story about how she landed at Bridges after a rough first year-and-a-half at Glenwood Springs High School.

"I had some attendance and behavior issues and was advised that I should probably look for an alternative," Gentry said. "I was immediately drawn to Bridges."

She had a lot of catching up to do her junior and senior years, she said, but Bridges provided the atmosphere for her to succeed.

"Bridges is truly a school where individuality thrives ... and where we're taught from the hearts and minds of the teachers, and not from a textbook," Gentry said.

Giving the keynote commencement address was former Bridges teaching assistant Dominique Hill, who has since returned to his hometown of Colorado Springs where he is now a para-professional and coaches high school track and cross country.

"The real world is more real than what you're used to now," Hill offered, adding that the consequences of slacking become greater in college or in the workforce.

"The training wheels are off ... there are no hands to hold any more," Hill said, ending with a metaphor he said he gleaned from a reality TV show about the difference between a pipe and a diamond.

With pressure beneath the earth's surface, the pipe breaks and crumbles, while the diamond becomes better than it was.

"Take the pressure you have on you now and become better because of it," Hill said.

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The Post Independent Updated May 29, 2010 01:37PM Published May 29, 2010 01:35PM Copyright 2010 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.