GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Yampah Mountain High School graduate Gabriel Flores shared the story of a young student of Zen Buddhism who asked his master how long it would take to achieve the Zen state of total enlightenment, if he worked “hard” at it.
“Ten years,” the master replied.
OK then, what if he concentrated even more and worked “really hard?” Flores continued.
“Twenty years,” the master replied.
Taken aback, the student proceeded to ask how long it would take if he gave it every bit of his attention, only focusing on achieving that Zen state.
“Thirty years,” the master replied.
The point being, Flores said, if you’re so intentionally focused on one goal without an eye on the path that takes you there, “you forget that you’re just trying to find yourself and to look for your future.”
“Yampah gave me an opportunity to get to the ‘me,’ and I just needed someone to believe,” Flores told his fellow Yampah classmates during the school’s graduation ceremony Friday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
The alternative Yampah Mountain High graduated 58 students this year. The school is a collaborative effort among four area public school districts to give students who don’t do well in the traditional high school setting another option to stay in school.
Among the graduates were 10 members of Yampah’s Teen Parent Program, through which teenage mothers are provided child care at the school while they continue their academic learning and also learn important parenting skills.
“These students understand that their education is a better opportunity for their children,” program adviser Sally Kilton said before handing out diplomas to her graduates.
“I never thought I would have a chance to do this, being a mom,” said one of the teen parents, Katia Fisher. “Yampah gave me a chance.”
From the playing of Pomp and Circumstance using kazoos to the individualized rainbow of different color caps and gowns for each of the graduates, Yampah’s graduation is anything but traditional.
One by one, other graduates also took turns saying a few words of thanks to the school and its staff of teachers and advisers for giving them another opportunity to graduate high school.
Aaron Garland, a longtime on-again, off-again Yampah English teacher, gave the commencement address and spoke to his passion for self-directed learning that reflects individual student interests.
“Your personalities are where your genius lies,” Garland said. “When you hear voices calling, listen to them … and honor them with your curiosity.
“You are the ones who can dream of something that isn’t and make it happen,” he said.
Garland also dedicated his address, in part, to the memory of another longtime area teacher, Ruth Podmore, wife of Yampah teacher Mike Podmore, who died earlier this year from cancer.
“Yampah gave me an opportunity to get to the ‘me,’ and I just needed someone to believe.”
Yampah Mountain High School graduate