Summit High tabs Silverthorne Paralympic snowboarder Jimmy Sides as commencement speaker |

Summit High tabs Silverthorne Paralympic snowboarder Jimmy Sides as commencement speaker

2018 Paralympian Jimmy Sides sign autographs for fans inside the Silverthorne Recreational Center on Saturday, April 28, along Rainbow Drive in Silverthorne. The Silverthorne resident and former staff sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghansistan will be giving the Summit High School commencement speech to graduating students on Saturday, May 26 at 10 a.m. in the school's gymnasium.
Hugh Carey /

Paralympic snowboarder and Silverthorne resident Jimmy Sides has been tabbed as this year’s Summit High School commencement speaker.

Sides, a 35-year-old former staff sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, will give the commencement address at 10 a.m., on Saturday, May 26, in the high school’s gymnasium.

The speech comes in the wake of an eventful 2018 for Sides, as the Texan and member of Team Semper Fi and Summit County’s Adaptive Action Sports finished in the top 15 in both banked slalom and snowboard cross events at March’s Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“It’s actually pretty surreal,” Sides said. “It’s amazing, kind of humbling that they figured I would be the one with a message to relay. I’m really excited and humbled by the whole thing, I didn’t think I’d ever do a commencement speech, so it’s kind of scary and exciting at the same time.”

Sides competed in the upper limb-amputated divisions while at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games as the para-snowboarder lost his lower right arm and vision in his left eye while serving as an explosive ordinance disposal technician with the Marines in Afghanistan. He was attempting to manually disarm an improvised explosive device when it exploded.

Sides said aside from a handful of speeches fewer than five minutes he’s never given a commencement-type speech, though he’s already started to write early drafts of what he might say, based on the 10- to 12-minute timeframe the school is providing.

“This will be my first legit speech,” Sides said. “Just kind of from what happened to me as far as my injury in the military and progressing forward and not letting anything stop me. Stuff’s gonna happen. You’re going to fail. But there is a bigger world in front of you.

“I’m trying to stay away from the clichés,” the Paralympian continued, “but ‘don’t ever give up,’ is kind of what I’m going for.”

At the Pyeongchang Games, his first Paralympics, Sides placed 14th in his upper limb banked slalom division and 15th in snowboard-cross (boarder cross).

The Austin, Texas-native is also currently studying geology and hydrology at Colorado Mountain College, set to receive his degree in 2020.

Living with his wife Amy and their 1-year-old daughter Avery in Silverthorne, Sides’ other hobbies include mountain biking, skating, surfing, off-roading, camping, climbing and hiking.

“Every time we look for a commencement speaker for Summit High grads we want to find an individual who can deliver an inspiring and passionate message about the doors that open when you leave high school,” said Julie McCluskie, spokeswoman for the Summit School District. “We are excited to have an Olympian who can share a story of success and reflect on the value of education and the importance of following through with your dreams.”

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