Students, principal say goodbye to Coal Ridge High School | PostIndependent.com

Students, principal say goodbye to Coal Ridge High School

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – Sunday was like reading the last page in a good book for Stephanie Hayden.

The Coal Ridge High School senior and class of 2010 valedictorian addressed her classmates on the day that was the culmination of their lives so far. She reminisced about what they have accomplished with smiles and adoration, while remembering the friendships that were nurtured from childhood and through four years at Coal Ridge High School.

But Hayden’s message to her peers Sunday was about turning a page in the book of time to the future, and that the future is what they make of it.

“We’ve survived high school, now it’s time to take on the rest of the world,” she said.

When the sun rose Monday, the 103 graduates woke, not as students of Coal Ridge High School, but as adults ready to face the real world with a fresh beginning.

“This is our clean slate,” she said. “We are minutes away from starting over.”

She said that things are going to be different. Up until now, they all had their parents to guide them, teacher to teach them, and friends to help them along the way. But starting Monday, they each will be taking control and setting out to find their own lives.

“In retrospect, it’s like we were in the back seat of our own lives,” she said. “Now, it’s our turn to drive. Now is the time to show the rest of the world what we are capable of.”

No one knows better than Coal Ridge High School science teacher and track coach Ben Kirk what these students are capable of accomplishing. And he knew what Sunday meant to each one of the graduates.

“You’ve all spent about 70 percent of your life building up to this day,” Kirk said. “Congratulations, this is truly a monumental day.”

But that 70 percent will shrink as the years add on. And as he, too, looked into the future and saw his former students as professionals he offered one last bit of advice. Actually, he had 22 pieces of advice, but number 22 was the most profound.

“Find something that truly makes you happy,” he advised the graduates. “That’s the only real key to success.”

Sunday was also a new beginning for Coal Ridge Principal Jeanie Humble.

Humble nominated the class of 103 students eligible for graduation Sunday for her last time as principal. Humble, who has been the school’s only principal since it opened in 2005, is retiring at the end of the school year. David Morgan, an assistant principal at Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, will replace Humble next year.

“It is my distinct honor, for the last time, to nominate these students for graduation from Coal Ridge High School,” Humble told the crowd.

In a special moment Humble took time to reflect on the life of a special girl and former CRHS student, Emily Johnson, who would have also graduated Sunday. Johnson was a junior at the school and a star on the soccer team when she was tragically killed in an all terrain vehicle (ATV) accident in November 2008.

As the graduates took to their seats on the football field Sunday evening, a cluster of pristine-white balloons tied to a chair in the students section represented Johnson. The crowd stood in silence to remember the girl who made such an impact on her classmates and the community as the balloons floated off into the cloudy sky.

“Her memory will continue to live in the hearts of her classmates and in the hearts of all of us,” Humble said.

While Sunday was a new beginning for the students, they will forever have the memories of their time as Titans.

For Hayden, while high school graduation may seem like the last page in a long novel, she understands that tomorrow is the first page of a brand new book that has yet to be written.

“We are not just starting a new chapter of our lives,” she said. “We are starting all over.”

jgardner@postindependent.com


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