Bridges students imagine the possibilities |

Bridges students imagine the possibilities

Each school year, Bridges High School teacher Maggie Riley draws a mountain range on the board in her classroom.

“The peaks represent the things we dream of,” she said.

And the valleys?

Riley said her students astutely observed when she put that question to them that they represent life.

“Bridges is a family, not just a school. Even after you graduate, you will always be a part of that family.”Maggie RileyBridges High School teacher

“It is in these valleys that much of our growth occurs,” Riley offered in her commencement address to 21 Bridges graduates of the Roaring Fork School District alternative high school Friday evening in Carbondale.

“When you look at your strengths and weaknesses, embrace all of it, because that is what makes you who you are,” Riley advised before the gathering of family, friends and school faculty in the school’s gymnasium.

The gym was brightly decorated with the artistic flare that sets Bridges students’ individual styles apart. Instead of the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, the Class of 2015 entered the gym to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

As class valedictorian Malia Machado put it, Bridges is a place for the “odd” students who don’t find traditional school to be their thing — a place for second chances, as she found out.

Machado said she made the choice to give Bridges a try during her sophomore year, “in an attempt to be happy.”

“I feel I succeeded in doing so,” she said. “I stand here before my classmates feeling happy today, and I hope they feel the same.”

Machado compared her fellow classmates to trees in the forest; none exactly alike, but each dependent on one another.

“You are all vital to the whole, and you can make a difference just by being you,” said Machado, who received a sizable scholarship to attend Columbia College in Chicago where she plans to major in film and acting.

All together, Bridges graduates received $136,650 worth of college scholarships this year, including direct scholarships from colleges and universities and several scholarships provided by local organizations.

As a way to inspire all of the graduates to go on to college, many of the Bridges teachers and Principal Lyn Bair wore their own college graduation robes for the occasion.

Graduate Mayra Flores said she, too, got a “fresh start” at Bridges.

“Bridges helped us to know that the future belongs to those who know the beauty of their dreams,” Flores said.

At the conclusion of her address, Riley showed a video that was put together by Bridges students asking fellow students how Bridges has shaped their lives. Among the answers were that the school helped build their confidence, and be more comfortable in social settings.

“Bridges is a family, not just a school,” Riley said. “Even after you graduate, you will always be a part of that family.”

Teachers were also asked in the video what advice they have for this year’s graduates.

“Be safe, and don’t do anything stupid,” teacher Mitch Ross said, adding, “And remember, it will all work out in the end, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end.”

The Bridges ceremony kicked off a weekend full of graduation celebrations in the Roaring Fork School District. Up next at 10 this morning will be Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, followed by Glenwood Springs High at 1 p.m. and Basalt High at 4 p.m.

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