Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. They don’t wear caps and gowns, but they do wear pride. They received hard-earned diplomas, which they had previously thought were impossible to achieve.
The eight Chinook West graduates were celebrated at a graduation ceremony on Friday, May 26, in front of a standing room only crowd in the TEENS, Inc. gymnasium. Stephen LeFaiver, executive director of TEENS, Inc. said that the eight graduates were numbers 106 through 113, since the school started in 2002, in partnership with the Boulder Valley School District and Nederland High School. He also announced that last week their contract with the district was renewed for the next five years.
LeFaiver then introduced Virginia Belval, a Boulder Valley School District Board Member, who told the grads to go out and make the world a better place. “You are already making the world a better place by being who you are.”
The Keynote Speaker for the day was Raj Rawat, the co-author of “Find Your Everest: before someone chooses it for you” and Founder of the Reverse the Chase initiative.
Rawat told the students that the graduation ceremony was a celebration of victory, of defeating their adversity. “You are the champions. You and I speak the same language and “the light is within you.”
He told the seniors about his childhood, how he had been sent away when he was eight years old, on a day that was 120 degrees, and that he had learned to apply what was within himself to look for opportunity outside of himself, and they could find the same light.
Then the Chinook teachers presented each student with a diploma, Dr. Seuss’s book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” and a plant. The teachers described the student and praised them for their individual efforts, sharing anecdotes that were funny, heartwarming and indicative of the student’s character.
Teacher Bill Pollock told the graduates, “You guys made it through the dramas of your age. I’m sure at times you thought it wasn’t worth it but you bounced back. You are good and kind people and are now part of the legacy of Chinook West. Feel free to return here so we can tell you how special you are.”
(Originally published in the June 1, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)