CARBONDALE — Central to the Bridges High School alternative approach is a close relationship between teachers and students, especially as many of those students have felt disenfranchised in the traditional school setting.
That tight bond was evidenced by the many hugs and words of thanks shared with teachers by Bridges graduates at their Friday evening commencement.
Sometimes, when faced with what seems to be a prescribed path, “maybe the alternative is the better choice,” class valedictorian Naomi Peters shared with her classmates and the teachers and Bridges staff seated behind her as she stood at the podium.
“Most of us chose to come here because we wanted something different,” she said. “At this school, I have had teachers that would double as friends, and classmates that would teach me.
“We’re also taught here to question facts, and to speak our minds … and to learn about the opinions of others,” Peters continued.
“I’ve learned what it means to be a teacher, a friend and a mentor … and that it’s OK to not know all the answers, as long as you can take an active part in your education and learn to question what’s being told to you.”
Peters was among 31 graduates to participate in commencement exercises at the converted former middle school building that now serves as the Bridges Center. Seven of those students will continue to complete their studies this summer before officially graduating.
Bridges is an alternative high school program of the Roaring Fork School District Re-1, taking in students from Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs.
Many of the students are just looking for a second, maybe even a third chance, explained longtime Principal Lyn Bair.
Others just need a different kind of challenge offered by a self-directed approach to learning, a flexible school schedule and strong teacher interaction in helping them stay on track.
When asked to stand if they had volunteered in the community or held down part-time or even full-time jobs, nearly the entire graduating class rose to their feet. Bridges graduates were also awarded $171,000 in various scholarships to go on to college.
School art teacher Tish McFee gave the commencement address, encouraging the graduates to stay engaged, or at least nod when someone is talking to make it look like you’re listening.
But, “If you nod too much, people will think you’re crazy,” she said. And, it’s also good to be at least aware enough to not nod at the wrong place in a conversation, McFee advised.
She also encouraged the graduates to be on the lookout for “aesthetic moments” in life, those times when the beauty of a sunset, or song, or even a smell, can be overwhelmingly beautiful.
“My hope for all of you is that you’ll have many aesthetic moments all your life,” McFee said.
As is tradition at the Bridges graduation, the graduates all had an opportunity to present flowers and say thanks to family and loved ones in attendance, while teachers shared a few words about each individual student as they received their diplomas.
“My hope for all of you is that you’ll have many aesthetic moments all your life.”
Bridges High School art teacher