Summit High School graduates received diplomas on Saturday
Friends stood together outside the gymnasium at Summit High School having just received their diplomas.
As their classmates shed tears, traded hugs and posed for photos, Yamile Gutierrez and Ashley Lebaron explained that they have been best friends since preschool but will go entirely different directions following a “gap year,” with Gutierrez planning to pursue her education in Portland, Oregon, and Lebaron setting her sights on Florida State University.
On Saturday, Gutierrez and Lebaron had similar feelings, both saying they’ll miss seeing the people they grew up with but are excited to see what the future has in store for them.
“It’s a bunch of emotions,” added Erick Hernandez, another one of Saturday’s graduates, who will attend Metropolitan State University in Denver after graduating. “I don’t really know what to feel — happy, sad, nervous. You know, I feel a lot of emotions right now.”
Summit High School sent 209 graduates off with the Class of 2019 on Saturday — students like Gutierrez, Lebaron, Hernandez and Matt Radtke Rojas, who’s eager to start making more of his own decisions, like other grads, but thinks that it’s going to take “a lot of getting used to” as he gets accustomed to living in “the adult world.”
With over 200 individuals, summing up exactly what makes the Class of 2019 unique might be easier said than done, especially considering the class has achieved so much, not just in the classroom, but across the board with sports, extracurriculars and clubs, in the trades and within the community.
But if Gutierrez and Lebaron had to do it, they said the Class of 2019 should be called: “The Best.”
Cumulatively, Summit High School’s 68th graduating class earned a 3.45 grade-point average, helping make SHS one of the top 800 college preparatory schools in the country and landing the school in the top 7% statewide. Additionally, SHS was one of only eight to receive the Governor’s Award of Distinction.
Together, the Class of 2019 took 246 IB Diploma Program and Advanced Placement exams, and it produced a Boettcher Scholar in Lauren Airey and a National Merit Scholar with Abigail Lau. With the honors, Airey has earned a free ride to the Colorado university of her choice, and Lau ranks among only 7,500 recipients out of more than 15 million students nationwide.
But that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
“It doesn’t,” agreed principal Drew Adkins immediately after Saturday’s two-hour ceremony. “All the kids up there — all 209 of them — have added value to Summit County and to the storied history we have here at Summit High School. I wish we had more time because we’d be here all day if I sang all the praises and all their awards.”
These are students like valedictorian Abigail Lau, salutatorian Allie Lew, class president Grace Karoly, speakers Jake Lowe and Noelle Resignolo, an All-State athlete and the student body president, along with so many others.
Lowe delivered the commencement address, and Resignolo helped welcome everyone into the graduation ceremony. After graduation, Resignolo will attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks, on a full-ride scholarship as a member of the Nordic ski team. Meanwhile, Lowe will go on to George Washington University after finishing his high school career with a 4.4 GPA, full completion of the IB Diploma Program and, as the school’s speech and debate captain, he ranked No. 19 in the U.S. after last year’s national debate tournament.
Outside the class
Academics weren’t the only arena in which the Green Machine excelled, and Adkins pointed out the class set many new school records and won six state championships over the last four years. The class also obtained 77 Academic All-State Awards, and almost three out of four of its members participated in some extracurricular activity.
In terms of the trades, 21 members of the class leave SHS as certified nursing assistants while 42 of them have passed the emergency medical responder exam, and that’s not to mention other certification and training programs, like bike or ski technician, completed by the young scholars.
Perhaps even more impressive is that 61 of Saturday’s graduates started their school careers with limited English proficiency.
Now, 38 of the graduates have their Seals of Biliteracy, a designation signifying the successful completion of the school’s dual-language program. Twenty-one members of the class will be the first in their families to attend college.
Heart of the Tigers
With a long resume of volunteer work and campaigns, the Class of 2019 was no stranger to volunteerism, community projects and service work.
And at least seven classmates have made commitments to the armed forces, either enlisting in one of the branches, being appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy (Madisyn Hirsh) or enrolling in the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University as a member of the Air Force ROTC (Cassandra Pierson).
“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your service and dedication to our country,” said Adkins, who paused earlier in the ceremony over Memorial Day weekend to remember the nation’s fallen soldiers.
Adkins Next move
Saturday’s graduation ceremony was extra special for Adkins, as it was his last as principal. He isn’t going far, but Adkins is leaving his post at SHS to become the chief operating officer for the Summit School District, and he said it will be his connection with students he’ll miss the most. During the ceremony, it was evident the class has a lot of love for the outgoing principal, too.
“They’re fantastic,” Adkins said in return. “They’ve been a wonderful class. If you look at just some of the accolades that they’ve received … . With all those awards and honors, they’ve certainly demonstrated their academic prowess, but moreover, I think they’ve been great kids.”
He said they’ve demonstrated strong character and given back to their community in a variety of ways as they’ve found success on the field and in the classroom.
“I think they’ll go out and make a difference,” Adkins concluded. “They’re a wonderful class and I know they’re headed to great things.”
A special appearance
The ceremony was highlighted by remarks from Dave Repsher, as he delivered the commencement address. A 1988 SHS graduate, former boys soccer coach and ski patroller, Repsher was working as a flight nurse when he was badly burned in a 2015 Flight For Life helicopter crash in Frisco.
“It’s OK to have a Plan B. If you do have a change, something happens in your life … it’s not a failure; it’s just a new opportunity,” Repsher told the class, as he talked about how much the Summit County community has supported him, both before and after the crash, and how much that’s meant to him.
“Life can be fleeting,” Repsher continued in his address. “Not only can it be fleeting, but it can change in a heartbeat so never miss a chance to do what you do and do what you love every day.”
Because Repsher was on exchange in Germany during his senior year of high school, he didn’t get to walk with his class 30 years ago. On Saturday, however, the school rectified history as Adkins invited Repsher to cross the stage to receive his diploma. As he did so, the Class of 2019 and the audience filling the gymnasium gave Repsher a standing ovation.
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