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CCHS Class of 2023 walks into the graduation ceremony. Photo by Carly Winchell.

The 33rd Commencement for Chaffee County High School occurred Wednesday, May 24 at Adventure Unlimited. 12 students were present out of 13 graduates. Despite the incorrect time listed on the Buena Vista School District’s website, so many attended that staff had to provide more chairs for the people gathered to support the class of 2023.

A full house at 2023 CCHS Graduation. Photo by Carly Winchell.

Superintendent Lisa Yates read a message from CCHS Dean of Students Kelly Chandler who was not able to attend. “Once they [the students] could see a clear path to what they want to accomplish,” said Chandler via Yates, “They worked hard and got it done.”

Transformation and overcoming obstacles were the night’s main themes for staff and students. As previously reported by AVV, CCHS underwent massive changes last year when the school district sold the CCHS building.

None of the original CCHS staff remain with the alternative school a year after the move, and all classes were moved online. Students moved to a variety of venues and eventually landed in the renovated Sprung building on Buena Vista High School (BVHS) property in addition to dealing with cuts to the budget and staff.

Fortunately, obstacles didn’t stop these students’ success. They also didn’t stop former CCHS staff from celebrating their students. Those in attendance included former principal Christine Bailey, counselor Natalie Moore, community coordinator Jeannette Winchell, social studies teacher Steve Quilico, social studies teacher Amy Bittle, and English teacher Taylor Drusch.

Each graduating student had a chance to speak in a tradition unique to CCHS. Some kept things short, while others spoke at length, but each student was celebrated individually. In addition to family, many students thanked current and former CCHS staff for their support with Bailey and Moore receiving multiple mentions.

Former CCHS staff congratulates graduate Jordyn Moore. Pictured from left to right, Amy Bittle, Taylor Drusch, Jordyn Moore, Natalie Moore, Christine Bailey, and Jeannette Winchell. Photo by Carly Winchell.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. What matters is that you get back up,” said graduate Jordyn Moore. She thanked Bailey, Natalie Moore, and Drusch, identifying Bailey as an excellent principal who was always willing to help.

CCHS 2023 Graduate Jeremiah Smith is congratulated by former CCHS staff Jeannette Winchell. Photo by Carly Winchell

Graduate Jeremiah Smith thanked the entirety of the former staff, listing many of those in attendance. “Without them, I don’t think any of us would be here,” said Smith.

Graduate Henry Dodson discussed struggles with anger, beginning in kindergarten, at the promise of thirteen years of eight-hour days.

“It feels like we’re moving too fast through a world that wants nothing to do with us,” said Dodson.

At CCHS, Dodson was able to find inspiration, music, and peers who would make a lasting impact. Dodson credited former principal Bailey with helping more than anyone else and letting Dodson know that all his energy and passion could be used for something good.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing,” said Dodson. “The one thing I do know is I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

Hopefully, these thirteen graduates will go on to enjoy each minute of their bright futures:

Henry Dodson

Mason Foreman

Sage Martinez

De’Quan Mathias

Jordyn Moore

Trevor Pettus

Taylor Rogers

Jeremiah Smith

Kayla Sullivan

Madalynn Tremaine

Aidon Vallotton

Keenan White

Johnathon Wilson