2019 Bridges graduates celebrate the obstacles overcome
“Never let anyone invalidate your 18 or so years on this earth by calling them imaginary,” Lilly Garrett, valedictorian of Bridges High School class of 2019 told her fellow graduates Friday evening.
Bridges students have likely heard the expression, “you think this is hard? Wait until you get to the real world,” Garrett said in her remarks.
“To this I answer, ‘what world do you think I’ve been living in?’” she said.
As the 29 Bridges graduates walked the stage at The Orchard to receive their diplomas, teachers spoke about each student – their contributions to the school community, their aspirations, and the challenges they’ve overcome.
The teachers also read appreciations from the students to staff, friends and family. Yamiletzi Mata-Tarin thanked her family for not kicking her out, and “Roaring Fork High School for kicking her out because it led her to Bridges, and her family and friends,” Bridges counselor Maggie Riley said from the podium.
As an alternative high school, Bridges has certain stereotypes, but those were quickly proved incomplete for the valedictorian after beginning classes.
“Transitioning from a traditional school to Bridges definitely dispelled a lot of stereotypes for me,” Garrett said.
Prejudging based on stereotypes is a mental shortcut that often misses the truth, Garrett said.
“It boils down to this basic rule: Give everyone a chance. What you find to be true, and what you’re proven wrong about — which will be a lot — may surprise you,” Garrett said.
Garrett has a job lined up as a behavioral therapist. Two students completed high school after having children. Seven held a job while attending Bridges, some took classes at Colorado Mountain College through dual enrollment programs, and two-thirds of the graduates were bilingual.
Bair presented the finishers award to Vanessa Villalobos, who started a mentoring program at bridges for her senior year’s capstone project.
Bridges principal Lyn Bridges honored one student for embodying the qualities of finishers. Finishers “have vision, they show up, they have courage, and they have humility,” Bair said.
All together, the class of 2019 have awarded $202,000 for college and advanced learning through scholarships from community associations, Bair said.
Some graduates of Bridges will walk with Basalt High School or Roaring Fork High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday.
Graduates Gisselle Munoz Arroyo, Luis Gomez, Martin Gomez and Roman Santiago received $3,000 scholarships from Aspen Elks Lodge.
Gomez “overcame almost impossible obstacles to be where he is today: Successful and full of hope,” Riley said. “Even though he said ‘I’ll never graduate,’ he was still working hard at graduating,” she said.
“I did it,” Arroyo exclaimed before she retook her seat on stage.
As the graduates received their diplomas from Rob Stein, the superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools, and hugged the staff of Bridges, the audience would cheer and clap, but no one received more applause than Max Grimaldi, whose capstone project was in sharing his story of recovery from addiction.
“The times that he visited Bridges and shared his story and wisdom have broadened our perspectives and enriched our community,” said teacher Suzanne Fitzgerald.
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Commencement at Colorado Mountain College is always a special day, but this year was different.