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Alpine Christian’s first graduates like 10 raised to a higher power

Tamie Meck

Commencement exercises for the 2002 graduating class at Alpine Christian Academy should go quickly.

This class, the first to receive diplomas from the small, private school, has only 10 seniors.

But what a group of seniors they are.

Of the 10, all will attend college at some level. Three are valedictorians graduating with a 4.0 grade point average.

Some are accomplished musicians, some are state-qualifying athletes, and some are nationally recognized scholars and scholar-athletes. While most live in Basalt, others commute to school from as far away as Silt and Marble.

For four years or more, these students have learned, sung, prayed, traveled and done most everything together.

The 10 teens gathered on a stairway outside their classrooms. They joked and teased with one another, were respectful, and seemed quite comfortable around one another and around their headmaster, William Collins.

They acted more like a close-knit group of camp counselors at the end of a long summer than a collection of classmates preparing to graduate.

“We used to have some major cliques going on, but we don’t anymore,” said Lauren Vagneur.

“Alpine’s like a second home, it really is,” said Amy Heuer, one of three class valedictorians.

“I like how we have relationships with our teachers, instead of them just being our teachers,” added Vagneur.

“The teachers and our principal have definitely set us up to succeed in life,” said valedictorian Megan Lund.

The only senior who will not attend college this fall is Cera Eshelman. She has enlisted in the U.S. Army, and plans to take college courses throughout her service career.

Anna Hays will attend the Evangelic University in Missouri, and Amy Heuer will attend Hope College in Holland, Mich. Valedictorian Lora Meredith will attend the University of Northern Colorado, as will Kalyn Karnan.

Lauren Vagneur plans to attend Colorado State University, while Megan Lund and Luke Blue will attend University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Matthew Holloway will attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Robert Berkeley plans to attend the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

Alpine Christian Academy, located on Highway 82 just north of Basalt, provides a strong academic and Biblically-based education. Maximum class size is 14 students.

The school first opened 12 years ago as a K-9 school. Classes were held in a bedroom converted into a classroom in a private home in Basalt. When it outgrew the one-bedroom classroom, the school moved to a larger space, now occupied by Java Joe’s, in Basalt. When it outgrew that space, it expanded to the Blue Lake Community Center. The school finally found a permanent home seven years ago on land owned by the Basalt Bible Church.

“It is a traditional, college preparatory curriculum,” said Collins. “It’s very traditional.”

The school’s board of directors held out on making the school a K-12, and decided to graduate its first seniors this year, said Collins, because this was such a close-knit and academically strong group and had been together for a long time.

“The board made the right decision to graduate this class,” said Collins. “They have met and exceeded all expectations.”

Tom Githens, of Basalt, was to also graduate with the class but transferred to Basalt High School this year. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was one of three valedictorians in the BHS class of 2002.

The classmates talked about life at Alpine, what it’s like to go to a small school, and what makes this school so unique.

“The thing I’ll miss most,” said Lund, “is the flexibility and the opportunities. We take lots and lots of field trips.”

Field trips are easy when the whole class fits into one van.

Unlike some area schools, there is no freshman initiation, which the entire class agreed was a positive point for the school.

Athletics aren’t big at the academy, since there are scarcely enough students to make a sports team. Most of the athletes competed with local schools. One student, Matt Holloway, played football, baseball and basketball for three years at Basalt High School.

Alpine does offer one varsity sport: cross-country running. The team has qualified twice for state competition and placed second in 2001.

The students also attend proms, homecoming dances and other activities in public schools and are involved in clubs, church and other activities with students at public schools.

The highlight of the last four years, they all agreed, is the annual Mission Trips.

Heuer spoke about her experiences in Mexico, where this year she completed an internship with the Wycliffe Bible Translators in Oaxaca. She also worked her junior year in Peoria, Ill., at an orphanage for babies born to crack-addicted mothers, and helped start a hospital for the Samachique Indians in Tarahumara, Mexico, her sophomore year.

The experiences were life-changing, said Heuer, who plans to study foreign languages on a scholarship at Hope College in Holland, Mich., and pursue a career as a Christian missionary or an interpreter.

For now, it’s graduation day. Commencement takes place at 4 p.m., at the Lacert Ranch outside of Carbondale.

“I’m excited to go off and start a new beginning,” said Heuer, as her classmates all nodded in agreement.

To establish a set of criteria and guidelines for future graduating classes “hasn’t been without its challenges,” said Collins. “But this graduating class has set a good set of standards to match and follow.”


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