Snowy Peaks High School graduated 18 students in emotional ceremony |

Snowy Peaks High School graduated 18 students in emotional ceremony

Snowy Peaks High School graduate Dakotah McKee gives his mother a rose at the school's commencement ceremony held in the Summit Middle School auditorium on Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Alli Langley / |

Snowy Peaks High School 2015 graduates

Abigail Nicole Jimenez

Alma Rosa Urrutia Sanchez

Benjamin Robert Wilson

Cameron Stanford Albin

Courtney Renee Landis

Dakotah Patrick McKee

Daniel Frederick Bernlohr

Duston Errol McKenzie Dolamore

Eduardo Enriquez Yañez

Hannah Jane Huong Lewis

JoAnna Mariah Kloiber

Jose Ramiro Salcido Holguin

Madison O’Shea Hogan

McKinley Grace Jones

Mickel Vernon Welch

Ross Allen Johnson

Tabor Ray Dicke

Yazmin Yesenia Castillo Ruiz

At one Summit County high school, the tradition of giving a rose to a loved one during graduation is almost as important as turning tassels.

Families, friends and supporters of the 18 students who graduated this spring from Snowy Peaks High School gathered Thursday, May 21, for the school’s commencement ceremony held this year in the Summit Middle School auditorium.

Snowy Peaks High School is in its fourth year as Summit School District’s alternative high school. It offers a smaller setting for students who have struggled through traditional school or simply want a more personalized, flexible experience.

Principal Jim Smith said most of the graduates persevered through challenges from full-time jobs and expensive commutes to harmful relationships and health issues to earn their diplomas.

The celebration of success began with a potluck full of families’ and friends’ favorite dishes.

Smith, who is also the school’s English teacher and a counselor, opened the ceremony, and district superintendent Heidi Pace shared some inspiration and advice with an analogy about hurdling in a track race.

Smith then talked about how he and the school’s other three teachers — Hank Buckingham, Tanya Kanning and Jen Wolinetz — have encouraged the students to see not just who they are, but also who they can be.

The class of 2015 stood and applauded the school’s staff, and several spoke later about how they would not be standing in graduation robes without the teacher support that transcended school walls.

At one point, a Snowy Peaks student dressed as the school’s mascot, the yeti, handed a speech to Smith. He then spoke about how well the yeti represents the school because it is defined by belief just as the school believes in the abilities of every student.

“Some of you faced hardships that would have caused other people to quit,” Smith said. “You believed that this was worth doing. You believed that you could do it and that you would do it.”

However, he described the difference between believing you can do something and actually doing it, and he praised the class of graduates for taking that action. Every graduate was accepted into a college or university, he said.

The students received placards with the word “BELIEVE,” and the letter I was replaced with an image of a yeti.

Next, each graduate was personally introduced by his or her counselor, one of the four teachers, and given a red rose.

The teachers described how students changed, referenced hardships overcome and funny moments shared and praised their intelligence, wit, passion and creativity.

Tabor Dicke turned a project into a job with a local welding business. Yasmin Castillo Ruiz worked full-time during school and plans to become a nurse. Duston Dolamore raised attendance by sometimes acting as a school bus driver and scooping up to three other students before school who would have missed class otherwise.

Then each student spoke, and the grads recognized teachers, family members and friends for their support and encouragement.

Each graduate singled out one person to receive a rose as a symbol of appreciation.

Most students gave their roses to their mothers. One gave her rose to a little brother, and a couple students handed their roses to their teachers who helped them through so much.

“It’s not just academics; it’s emotional support here,” Daniel Bernlohr said. “It’s been a boulder field, and I got through it.”

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