Summit High School seniors elated to celebrate graduation together |

Summit High School seniors elated to celebrate graduation together

After a year of hybrid learning and health restrictions, the graduating class of 2021 is off to start new beginnings

Students from the Summit High School class of 2021 toss their graduation caps in the air during a ceremony Saturday, May 29, in Breckenridge.
Photo by Ashley Low

With challenges come new opportunities.

That was the theme of Summit High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday, May 29, when about 200 seniors earned their diplomas.

The ceremony marked the culmination of a year spent adapting to COVID-19 health restrictions and spending most of the year learning in a hybrid in-person and at-home format. During the school year, Summit High and its students, staff and parents had to acclimate to ever-changing circumstances, and the graduation ceremony left many in bright spirits as it marked one of the first in-person events of the school year.

It was also one of the largest events in the community since the county first shut down in March 2020.

“COVID has made things hard,” Summit High Principal Tim Ridder said during his opening speech. “The confusion and the amount of work around changes, restrictions and adaptations have been a challenge. But challenges provide us with opportunities. When I see the class of 2021, I see a group of students who have capitalized on the opportunities presented to them since the start of their education to make a great future for themselves.”

Ridder cited a few examples in his speech, including when the boys golf team qualified for state for the first time in nine years and when student body President Foster Kruger advocated for students to see one another and planned a pep rally in December that adhered to safety protocols.

Ridder also acknowledged the recovery of Christian Santiago, who was severely injured in a car crash Oct. 18 on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs. Three of his friends were injured in the crash, as well, but Santiago, who was not wearing a seat belt, sustained the most serious injuries and was in a coma.

“Christian Santiago proved that an accident … could not prevent him from regaining much of what was previously lost to walk across this stage,” Ridder said.

Summit High School Principal Tim Ridder speaks during a graduation ceremony for the class of 2021 on Saturday, May 29, in Breckenridge.
Photo by Ashley Low

During the event, Amy Wineland, director of public health for Summit County and mother of a graduating senior, also gave a speech.

Though much of their senior year was spent apart, graduates said they felt elated to be together again for the ceremony. Most acknowledged that the time spent apart was difficult.

“It was definitely a little crazy this year,” graduating senior Gray Wasson said. “Everything was different. We didn’t get to see the same people that we used to. It made things a little weird.”

Kruger agreed, adding that high school athletics also were impacted.

“(It was) definitely not what a senior would have wished for,” Kruger said. “We didn’t get to see our friends every day. It was just a weird year in general. And then for myself, I didn’t get to play (sports) in front of a student section until right now for baseball. For hockey, that was the best part the last few years. So it was a bummer, but I think now that things are starting to lighten up, it’s becoming really fun again, and we’re making the most out of the situation that we’ve encountered.”

The Summit High School class of 2021 celebrates graduation with friends and family during a ceremony Saturday, May 29, at the school in Breckenridge.
Photo by Ashley Low

It was this togetherness that Tai-Lee Smith also said she missed.

“I think it was hard to not see the kids that you just see in school that you don’t see outside of (school),” she said. “It was pretty tough not being in school for all the classes and everything. I feel like it got better toward the end of the year.”

Now the seniors are focusing on what’s next: Wasson said he’s planning to attend Montana State University to study statistics. Kruger said he’s planning to study entrepreneurship and engineering at Loyola Marymount University, and Smith said she plans to attend Colorado Mesa University and join its cycling team.

Looking forward, Ridder said he hopes the school opens up fully for the upcoming school year but that the district is still waiting on guidance from state organizations.

“We did a lot of work with teachers,” Ridder said. “We did a lot of survey work with families and students, trying to see what their perspective is. Our hope is to be back wide open, but as this year has taught us, everything has to have a contingency plan. I think the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will share some guidance in July.”

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