Snowy Peaks celebrates first-ever December graduation for six exceptional students |

Snowy Peaks celebrates first-ever December graduation for six exceptional students

Snowy Peaks High School's December 2017 graduating class. Pictured from left to right: Akhmad Dia, Alan Palomino, Kasandra Enriquez, Karter Schumacher, Kaylin Blackmore, Jennifer Lemus.
Mindy Regner |

Snowy Peaks celebrated its first ever December graduation Thursday evening. Six students — Kaylin Blackmore, Akhmad Dia, Alan Palomino, Kasandra Enriquez, Jennifer Lemus and Karter Schumacher — received their diplomas during a ceremony at CMC Finkel Auditorium in Breckenridge. Snowy Peaks principal James Smith was joined by Summit School District superintendent Kerry Buhler in recognizing the students for their academic and personal achievements.

Each student had a unique path to graduation, with most holding full-time jobs to support their families while overcoming challenges that would seem daunting for adults, let alone teenagers. There is Akhmad Dia, who came to Summit in 2014 from Senegal at the age of 17 without a high school education or a grasp of the English language. Three years later, he is fluent in English, graduating after passing every single class and has a scholarship to play soccer at CU Boulder. Karter Schumacher, a transgender student who transferred to Snowy Peaks after facing torment from bullies at his previous school, thrived in Snowy Peaks’ non-traditional and welcoming environment. He intends to go to college and get a degree in fine arts. Kaylin Blackmore came to Snowy Peaks after graduating from a military academy, and wants to go to community college to learn tattoo artistry and take up modeling. Kasandra Enriquez delayed her senior year as she underwent nine hip surgeries before walking across the stage last night to receive her diploma.

Principal Smith was immensely proud of the graduating class and saw inspiration in all of their stories. “Every one of these stories, what these kids experienced, can make the world look a little darker, a little bleaker,” he said, “and yet they continue to persevere and show their own light to overcome that darkness.” William Dye, the social studies teacher who also teaches a project-based learning class called “Xtreme Literology,” credits Smith and Snowy Peaks’ innovative approach to education for some of the graduates’ success. “What we do for students is ask them what they need, and we will do whatever it takes to meet them at least halfway, if not even further.”

Dye gives most of the credit to the students, who had to show raw grit when they were forced to become adults much sooner than most others. Science teacher Scott Parker said the word “positive” described Snowy Peaks’ entire mantra, and says it has done wonders for the kids. “It’s the way school is supposed to be. It’s the most positive place I’ve ever been in my whole life, and I’ve been around the block a few times.”

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