Coal Ridge celebrates academic achievement |

Coal Ridge celebrates academic achievement

Ryan Hoffman
Seniors at Coal Ridge High School sign “letters of intent” at the eighth annual academic signing day Tuesday.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

The dozens and dozens of pennants at Coal Ridge High School Tuesday displayed the names of universities and colleges across the country — places that members of the 2016 graduating class will soon call home.

It was the eighth time the high school hosted its annual academic signing day, an event recognizing seniors accepted into a higher education institution or entering military service. In some ways, the celebration mirrors an athletic signing, with students signing letters of intent as parents and underclassmen watch.

This year, 92 graduating seniors will continue their education in one form or another. Some will go on to a four-year university while others will learn the techniques of a specific skill at a trade school. Three more seniors are joining the armed services. Bryce Skramstad and James Branham will be entering the Army, and Zoe Fuleki will be entering the Navy.

The event is one part celebration and one part motivation, explained Rick Elertson, Coal Ridge principal. In recognizing those seniors before moving on to the next stage in life, the school hopes to inspire younger classmates.

“That’s what we’re trying to get in their heads … there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Elertson said.

One by one, Elertson called out each student, along with the name of their preferred institution that they were accepted into. Overall, the 95 students recognized Tuesday represent roughly 83 percent of the senior class.

“That’s pretty good,” Elertson remarked after the ceremony.

Many received acceptance letters from multiple universities or colleges, and they were allowed to chose the institution they wanted to affiliate with.

Some of the graduates won’t be traveling too far — opting to attend nearby Colorado Mountain College and Colorado Mesa University.

Miguel Navarro is one of those students planning to attend Colorado Mesa, where he hopes to study engineering.

For Navarro, who participated in soccer and track while also working as a manager at the McDonald’s in New Castle, continuing his education is a big deal — he will be the first in his family to do so.

With three younger sisters, Navarro said he felt a responsibility to be an example.

Toward the end of Tuesday’s ceremony, Elertson brought Navarro and three other students up to ask them a series of questions.

Asked what he will miss most about Coal Ridge, Navarro responded with “the people.” Afterward, he explained that when he transferred to Coal Ridge from Rifle High School for his sophomore year, all he wanted to do was make new friends.

“They had open arms,” he said, “and that’s what I’m going to miss.”

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