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Yampah graduates celebrate in style

April E. Clark
aclark@postindependent.com
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SUNLIGHT MOUNTAIN RESORT, Colorado ” Yampah Mountain High School graduates showed their true colors Friday at the school’s annual commencement at Sunlight.

Graduation caps and gowns ranged from orange and royal blue to yellow and multi-colored tie dye. Graduates shared their creative personalities and feelings, thanking Yampah staff, family and friends for their journey.

“You won’t see a valedictorian up here speaking,” principal Leigh McGown said. “We believe each of these students are at the top of their class.”



Donning an orange cap and gown, Rebekah Gruner was the first to speak from the Class of 2009.

“I love this school because it has helped so many people to graduate,” she said.



Many of the 37 graduates shared their deep appreciation to Yampah teachers Kate McRaith, Mindi Harman, Susy Ellison, Mike Podmore, Michael Lowe and Rick Wolcott.

“Math was like a second language to me,” said Dillon Connors, to Harman. “Thank you so much.”

Connors, who played guitar during the ceremony, credited his success to the

small school where he learned life lessons while completing his studies. Connors captained the school’s climbing program and plans to pursue a career in music in Austin, Texas.

“When I started my freshman year, Yampah was just another place, another school,” Connors said. “As I stand here today, Yampah has become a second home.”

Wearing a ball cap backwards with a red tassel, Johnathan Moreau-Bierce echoed Connors’ sentiments. Moreau is credited with working with the city to help bring a skate park to Glenwood Springs while at Yampah.

“I can tell you how much this school here and the people here have meant to my life,” he said. “Rick, you’re probably one of the oldest young dudes I know. You rock. And Mike, you’re like the father I never had.”

Colton Radcliff chose tie dye to express himself ” and his appreciation to staff ” at graduation. He spoke about the impact Yampah has had on his life.

“Until I came to Yampah, my opinion on the school system might have been negative,” he said. “Yampah changed that.”

Graduate Chelsea Long was able to meld her love for dancing with high school at Yampah. It’s a creative opportunity she said might not have been possible without the strong bonds formed at the school between students and teachers.

“If you have ever been to Yampah, you know the teachers all have halos over their heads,” she said. “When you’re here, you’re family. It’s being about who you want to be, pursuing what you want.

Graduates of Yampah’s Teen Parent Program showed their thanks to the school’s day care staff with bouquets of flowers. The program’s teachers, Sally Kilton and Laura Smith, recognized the dedication of the 12 teen parents who juggled school, work and raising children.

The recognition brought graduate Angelica Salcido to tears.

“Angelica is one of the most capable young women I have ever known,” Smith said. “She is wicked smart and full of fire and ambition.”

Diego Adame ” the program’s only graduating dad in the Class of ’09 ” could not take his eyes off his diploma after accepting it with his little girl in his arms.

“It’s not often we get to introduce a graduating dad,” Kilton said. “He is strong, handsome, confident and always smiling.”

Maira Serrano, Adame’s girlfriend and fellow Teen Parent Program graduate, was also all smiles as she accepted her diploma and the Colorado Mountain College Latino Scholarship. She and her daughter wore matching purple robes.

“Maira is the essence of peace and harmony. She brings light and love to everything she does … Parenting has come natural for her,” Kilton said. “When she sets her mind to something it will get done.”

With a full ride to CMC, next up for Serrano ” college graduation.


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