Coal Ridge commencement provides lesson in perseverance |

Coal Ridge commencement provides lesson in perseverance

Ryan Hoffman

Before they turned their tassels and tossed their caps, Coal Ride High School’s 2015 graduating class received one last important lesson: Do not give up, even in the middle of a pounding hailstorm.

The graduation ceremony started on what was a sunny Saturday morning and continued even after chilly rain, and eventually hail, started to fall. “I got a terrible, horrible problem a couple thousand feet above us,” joked Principal Rick Elertson. “Let’s keep moving!”

Perseverance was a theme at the ceremony — beyond the weather conditions. Commencement speaker and teacher Jennifer Morandi Benson encouraged the 118 graduating seniors to find something they are passionate about and never give up.

“When you think you cannot possibly finish that college essay or work another hour or whatever it may be, know that you can,” she said. “Contrary to popular belief, there are enough hours in the day — believe me I have used every single one of them at one time or another. You just have to manage them wisely.”

More than 90 of the graduating students have been accepted into college, and another five plan on serving in the armed forces.

Most of the young people leaving Coal Ridge that day, Morandi Benson said, are not going to be able to achieve their future dreams alone. But among the lessons Valedictorian Olivia Wernsmann said she learned at Coal Ridge was that you never are truly alone.

When a mural Wernsmann was painting during her sophomore year was defaced by an upper classman, one of the art teachers took it upon herself to paint over the vandalism. The point was not lost on Wernsmann.

“People care,” she said. “You might feel like you’re alone in some situation, but that is probably far from the truth. When things get tough there’s probably someone just around the corner trying to make it better.”

What makes the class of 2015 special, the valedictorian said, is its ability to find humor in challenges and overcome obstacles; a trait that makes Wernsmann optimistic for the future.

“I hope that it only gets better from here,” she said. “We’re the class of 2015 and world, here we come.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.