Summit High School honors seven ’17 senior scholars |

Summit High School honors seven ’17 senior scholars

Luis Blanco looks forward to a career in law enforcement after graduating from Summit High as part of the class of 2017.
Ben Trollinger / |

Summit High School celebrates this year’s graduation on Saturday, May 27, starting at 10 a.m. at the school. Here, a glimpse at a septet of senior scholars among the class of 2017, and where they’re all off to next.

Cassidy Cortright

As one might imagine, Summit High School’s valedictorian, Cassidy Cortright, has lofty aspirations and is hitting the ground running.

“I like to be more involved in the community and to help others. And I want a job I love.” Luis Blanco, Summit High student

The International Baccalaureate graduate has her mind trained on medical school after studying integrated physiology with a minor in Spanish at the University of Colorado-Boulder. To get a feel for it, she’s presently working toward her EMT certification through an intensive course this summer at Colorado Mountain College. It’s all part of her aim to give back to others.

“Service and medicine is my plan,” said Cortright. “I want to go to Latin American countries and give them medical care and stuff like that. I think that it would just be really rewarding to do service projects as a way to travel.”

She’s already off to a good start in that regard, coordinating a project for volunteers to build hundreds of water filters through the high school’s Interact Club. Once finished, the devices were shipped off to third-world countries in need of upgrades to their water cleansing systems.

The decision to attend CU was an easy one for the Colorado native, based on the financial package she was offered, and the bonus is the area also fits well with her lifestyle after growing up in Summit County. Cortright looks forward to remaining close to home, as well as continuing to enjoy the outdoors with favored activities like hiking and trail running.

Orion Van Oss

The breadth of activities Orion Van Oss has been involved in since starting at Summit High School would make a college admissions counselor blush.

He’s been the lead in musicals, participated in theater, is the reigning poetry contest state champ, an International Baccalaureate graduate and is the class of 2017’s salutatorian. Oh yeah, and he’s headed to Birmingham, Alabama, on behalf of the high school’s speech and debate team in mid-June for the national competition where he’ll present on the topic of white privilege and racism in American society.

It had a couple of the Ivy Leagues fighting over him before he decided on Columbia University this upcoming fall, lured by Manhattan’s “big city charm.”

“I just really like New York,” said Van Oss. “It seemed like a great place and I’m really excited about kind of being in the center of activities and new stuff in the country.”

Originally from Florida before a pit stop in neighboring Grand County en route to Tallahassee, he arrived back to Colorado in Summit County for the start of his freshman year. It’s been the interpersonal relationships and ability to stand out in the smaller, familiar community that he said has allowed him to flourish.

True to form, while joining poetry clubs and who knows what else along the way, Van Oss eventually endeavors to obtain a Ph.D. in physics. He’ll gladly start at the undergraduate level, seeking to better understand the foundation levels of matter and energy, breaking all things discovery down in the pursuit of education and improvement.

Luis Blanco

Luis Blanco’s posture and straitlaced attitude immediately give him away — he wants to be a police officer.

He’s direct, matter-of-fact and, behind black-framed glasses, his eye contact is laser-focused. Blanco acknowledges it wasn’t always this way, and it took two years as an underclassman following brushes with trouble and poor grades to refine his course. Now he hopes his future holds keeping people on the straight and narrow.

“I like to be more involved in the community and to help others,” said Blanco. “And I want a job I love.”

With the aid of several scholarships and working the last couple years to save money, he’ll start into an associate’s degree in criminology at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus in Glenwood Springs, then enter into the police academy. After that he’d ideally land back in Summit or another Colorado mountain community as a police officer, and also continue his newfound passion for snowboarding.

As a first-generation student whose family is from Mexico, Blanco credits the high school’s Pre-collegiate program with getting him where he is today. Lacking the opportunity, his parents each finished middle school, and the Summit County native is proud to take the additional strides his family never had.

Viri Cruz

For Summit High senior Viri Cruz, her senior year was all about fulfilling ambitions of being the first member of her family to attend college, no matter what obstacle might present itself.

Toward the end of her sophomore year, that unexpected hurdle became a diagnosis of thyroid cancer and the subsequent recovery period over the last year and a half. The emotional and physical challenges were significant. She fell behind in school as the family made weekly trips down to Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

The experience proved fortuitous, however, and now Cruz, who is from originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and bilingual, intends on a career in the medical field to assist those who might go through something similar and ensure families are well informed across cultures. It’s the same reason why on occasion she’s worked as a babysitter teaching Spanish to a local family’s two young children — to help improve communication and understanding.

The faith Cruz’s parents showed in her to finish school on schedule despite the notable time away from classes, and motivation to be a first-generation student bestowed from them and the high school’s Pre-collegiate program, have her excited to start her post-secondary education at Colorado Mountain College’s Breckenridge campus. A number of area scholarships will also aid in her plans after that to transfer to an in-state university.

“Nothing’s impossible if you’ve got your mind (set) to it, you’re able to reach your goal,” said Cruz. “I was able to get up and come back to school and just work my hardest. I did get back on track and received a couple of honor rolls after that.”

Claire Davidson

Performance and rhetoric have always been a part of Summit High graduate and National Merit finalist Claire Davidson’s life since she can remember and she next hopes to ride that love for public speaking into a career in government.

Rubbing elbows and engaging in political theory with the nation’s future leaders at Yale University isn’t a bad place to do it starting in the fall. After all, the International Baccalaureate student and speech and debate president is already primed for the task, having first mobilized rallies as a second grader to helping with the school district’s bond and levy campaign this past election.

“I love getting up and sharing my ideas and debating things,” said Davidson. “I think that’s why getting involved in the public sector is really a life goal for me. Just being a part of the process would be amazing no matter which side of the public presentation I’m on.”

Whether she’ll ultimately run for office herself or prefer a behind-the-scenes role like that of a speechwriter, is still to be determined. That can all wait until Davidson begins packing for the trip to Connecticut, and for now she’s just excited to give the commencement address at graduation as well as perform yet again, this time with the choir in singing “Seasons of Love” to close out her high school career.

Sam Hull

For being Summit High’s class president and captain of the football and baseball teams, Sam Hull is surprisingly soft-spoken, but that’s because he allows his true passion to do most of the talking.

The All-State Jazz Band, and All-State Concert Band alternate grew up playing the trumpet, but made the switch over to trombone six years ago when its tonal blare called his name.

“Our director was talking about the trombone and said it’s the loudest instrument in the orchestra,” recalled Hull. “So middle school me was drawn to it and I fell in love. It’s unique and you can use it in practically any kind of music — it’s very versatile.”

The Summit County native’s connection to the instrument is leading him to the University of Northern Colorado to pursue a degree in music education. From there, he can comfortably see transferring the skill into a position as a band teacher, but is also keeping options open of becoming a professional orchestra or jazz performer. The idea of joining a military field band so he can be paid to travel the world and play music is one he’s mulling as well.

Hull’s completion of the International Baccalaureate program, work as a counselor with the Keystone Science School this summer and his leadership positions all the way back to elementary school also gives credence to thoughts of a career in education. He’ll be the one to direct graduates to move their tassels from right to left, and Hull is quite happy to go out on another high note.

Joy Manguso

Born and raised in Summit County, Joy Manguso is excited to spread her wings and take on her next challenge upon graduation.

Her efforts as an International Baccalaureate student were instantly rewarded when she was named a Daniels Fund Scholar, providing a renewable scholarship for four years at a college of her choosing. It will also allow her to start out as a sophomore when she begins school at Roger Williams University, a small, private school in Bristol, Rhode Island.

While there, she plans to study business management in pursuit of a career in interior design. Through job shadows, an internship and independent study, she’s taken the advice of mentors on the best method for owning her own design firm, and looks forward to achieving that goal in the future.

Manguso has enjoyed her time at Summit High, as a lacrosse player, and philanthropic leader through Rotary, Interact Club and the school’s leadership team, spearheading programs like freshmen orientation and food drives. But it’s time to cast a wider net, where extended family is also nearby.

“Living in Summit County, you know everyone and it’s kind of a nice little bubble,” said Manguso. “Being out on the East Coast, it’s a lot more fast-paced, and I’m looking forward to just a change in day-to-day life in that sense.”

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