Bridges High School students cross a significant landmark |

Bridges High School students cross a significant landmark

Stina Sieg
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

SUNLIGHT MOUNTAIN, Colorado ” “I’m stoked,” said Amanda Baertsch, moments from her high school graduation.

The 17-year-old looked it. Beaming, she was waiting behind a curtain inside Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort’s lodge with 23 fellow Bridges High School students. Her white gown was decorated with patches, and her hair was flipped up in two braids, defying gravity. She was attempting to describe what makes Bridges different from other schools.

“We’re like the kids that don’t fit in at the high school, so we go to Bridges, so we can all not fit in together,” she said.

Needless to say, Bridges’ Friday evening ceremony wasn’t your expected high school graduation.

It was even snowing outside.

Before it began, the lodge was packed with people, food and flashing cameras. Most there seemed excited and anxious at once, ready to get the show on the road.

“You know, what it’s all about is the closeness of the kids and teachers,” explained Barbara Kuhr, an eight-year veteran teacher at Bridges. She was looking around the room with moist eyes, filled with an almost motherly gaze.

Crammed next to her was Josh Hiltner, 18.

“I would lose sleep just wondering if I would be able to put on this robe and this cap,” he said.

He described the week before this day, when he’d stayed up late every night, worrying his way into finishing all of his projects. The lanky guy looked tired, but insisted he felt “really, really good.”

Then the teens were herded together and prompted to get ready. When principal Lynn Bair called them out to the stage, no one heard her, and she dramatically cleared her throat into the microphone.

The audience ” and students, alike ” laughed as the seniors made their “grand entrance.”

“We are glad you are here to celebrate with us,” said Bair, to heady applause.

What followed was a 90-minute journey, where each student was individually acknowledged (most many times over). At first, Bair read the obvious awards, the scholarships and such. Cortney Black was given a $2,000 scholarship from the Weather Shield Company Foundation. Ayla Dobbs was named a Distinguished Scholar at Mesa State and received four years paid tuition there. Junior Thia Munoz won a $1,000 scholarship to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Cody Weller, also a junior, was presented with a $1,000 scholarship to the Colorado School of Mines.

Senior Alec Damon’s eyes got wet with surprise as he was presented the Pre-Collegiate Aspen Community College Scholarship of $4,000 by Pre-Collegiate Director Adriana Ayala-Hire. Austin Hazzard seemed to take it in stride when he was named Valedictorian.

The audience clapped heartily after each announcement ” even as the accolades drew on and on. Bair kept at it, naming off Boy Scouts and honor roll members, 4H kids and even students who had learned martial arts. At the end of all this, she asked everyone who had held a full-time job during the year to stand up. Nearly the entire class did.

Teacher Mike Schneiter then gave a sometimes hilarious speech, mentioning all the excuses he’d heard from students, neglecting to do their work (“My alarm clock was broken three quarters of the school year,” was a crowd favorite). He left the kids, though, with a more serious thought. It’s the “little choices along the way” that matter, he explained ” not excuses.

Later, teacher Brandon Janes and students Jacob Russo and Josh Millby lent stringed, antique tunes to the afternoon. Baertsch and Hazzard laid down speeches.

Writer, photographer, magazine editor and recent Bridges substitute teacher Barbara Orcutt was one of the last to address the crowd. Wearing traditional East Indian garb, she told the kids of various ways “to be.” Be brave, generous, a world citizen, she said. Be the change you want to see in the world.

She left them with a question from poet Mary Oliver.

“What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” she asked.

Minutes later, the students names had been read, and they had hugged and cried and shook hands with all their teachers. They’d thrown their caps up into the air, and they were snacking and taking pictures with relatives. In the frenzy, Damon (the guy who had cried when awarded a scholarship), tried to voice his feelings. Soon to be a student at Northwestern Community College in Rangely, he’s the first in his family to continue his education past high school. He looked elated, but like so many around him, he seemed shell-shocked, too.

“Wow,” he said. “The past feels great, but the future seems uncertain.”

“I can’t believe it’s over.”

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

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