St. Vrain Valley graduates 1,800 students Saturday

Clutching flowers, balloons and umbrellas, family members filed into St. Vrain Valley School District gymnasiums to watched their loved ones cross the stage and receive their high school diplomas on Saturday morning.

District spokesman Matt Wiggins said Friday that roughly 1,800 students would graudate from St. Vrain Valley schools on Saturday. Of those, 327 students will graduate with a 4.0 GPA, according to SVVSD numbers.

At Silver Creek High School, straggling seniors jogged past the families and friends, pulling on their caps and gowns as they went.

Inside, families knotted together, discussing lunch plans and making sure they had enough tickets for the limited number of seats in the gym.

Erin and Jimmy Dunehew waited to go in and see their daughter Brooke graduate from Silver Creek.

Erin Dunehew said she had a lot of mixed feelings about her daughter's graduation.

"It's sad. Because this means she's all grown up," Erin Dunehew said, wiping a tear carefully away from her eye.

Jimmy Dunehew said their family planned to celebrate on Monday by roasting a pig and holding a barbeque.

Elise Singer waited outside Silver Creek High School for her mom and stepfather, Dee and Peter Long. Singer gripped a bouquet of flowers for her graduating younger sister, Morgan Long.

"I'm so proud of her. I didn't graduate. I got my GED instead and I'm just so proud of her for going all the way," Singer said.

Dee Long said she was very excited to see her daughter graduate, partly because it's her last child to walk the stage.

"She's the last one out of five and four out of five of them attended Silver Creek," Dee Long said.

Inside the Niwot High gym, Principal Eric Rauschkolb welcomed everyone and spoke about how the graduates are ending one chapter of their lives and beginning another.

Niwot High math teacher Andrew Roberts spoke to the students and their families, saying that he surveyed the Niwot class of 2017 about what they were most worried about. Three themes emerged, he said — political unrest, the environment and the students' futures.

Roberts attempted to assuage those fears. He told the students that most of them seemed to be concerned about a rise of authoritarianism and a quieting of oppositional voices.

"The Suffragette Movement did not give in. The Civil Rights movement did not give in and the Gay Rights movement did not give in," Roberts said. "You must turn your worries and concerns into action. You must vote. You still have to protest ... you owe it to your leaders to speak up."

On the topic of the students' futures, Roberts said many of the graduates seemed worried they would fail.

"You're going to fail. There you go. And I know it sounds cliche, but your failures are pathways to your success," Roberts said, adding that students wrote they were worried about "finding a dentist" and "having too much fun and regretting it later but also not having enough fun and regretting it later."

Roberts told the students they would do both, but he recommended the former. And, he added, "finding a dentist is not that hard."

Grace Shibles, a Niwot senior, said before the graduates walked the stage that she was feeling pumped.

"I didn't think I would make it so I am very relieved," she said. "It's been a rough four years and I've just had kind of a rocky past, so I'm just really happy." Shibles said she plans to work full-time and attend Front Range Community College before making her way to either Colorado State University or the University of Northern Colorado.

Esmerelda Alvarado, of Niwot, said she was very proud of herself for graduating and she hoped her parents were proud of her too. Her cap read "They crossed the border so I could cross the stage."

Graduate Trae Gonzalez said he was glad to be done with high school.

"I feel amazing actually. It was a long run for me and I feel that I've gotten a lot off my back and I've made my family proud," Gonzalez said.