From abuse to abandonment, from the death of a parent to their own battle with a life-threatening illness, they have suffered the unimaginable. They have experienced things no one – especially a child – should have to experience. But most importantly, they have beaten the odds and overcome incredible challenges.
At the April 11 Parents’ Council meeting, two seniors from each of the district’s high schools, shared powerful stories of perseverance, leaving many in the audience wiping away tears.
Cherry Creek High School senior San Twin talked about spending the first 15 years of her life in brutal poverty in a refugee camp in Thailand, where she and her family feared for their lives every day. She arrived at CCHS as a “culture-shocked” freshman, speaking no English, but found teachers and peers willing to help her learn a new language and culture. Four years later, she is preparing to attend Community College of Denver.
“My dream is to become a nurse and help people,” said Twin. “I am so grateful for this opportunity.”
Some of the students were bullied or discriminated against because of their appearance, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Some experienced depression, turned to drugs and alcohol, even considered suicide. But each found acceptance and purpose in Cherry Creek schools, clubs and activities.
“Life became worth living when I joined the Grandview theater department,” said GHS senior Monte Hall, who now plans to become a high school English or theater teacher.
“I am surrounded by a whole lot of great people,” said Eaglecrest senior Justice Smith, who is involved in both sports and the Brotherhood, a group for African American young men.
“We always support each other, no matter what,” added Smith, who will study civil or industrial engineering at CU-Pueblo this fall.
Some of the students grew up
in broken homes or had parents who struggled with addictions. Eaglecrest senior Letisha Alvarado spent her early years separated from her seven siblings, bouncing from foster homes to crisis centers to groups homes.
“I was in 12 different homes between the ages of eight and 12,” said Alvarado. Fortunately, she connected with Thunder Ridge Middle School AVID teacher Laurie Langille in seventh grade. “She saw potential in me I never saw and never expected to see,” said Alvarado, who is now heading to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to study pre-nursing and psychology.
Cherokee Trail senior Tiffany Kalevik told the crowd that everything in her life was going pretty well until eighth grade, when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Caring teachers and classmates helped her navigate weekly chemotherapy treatments, complete eight Advanced Placement classes and maintain a GPA that has never been lower than a 4.0. Now cancer-free, she plans to study acting in college.
Hali Noftsger, a senior at Cherry Creek PREP, will graduate on the 11th anniversary of her dad’s death. That loss contributed to her troubles in school. But like each of the students who shared their story with Parents’ Council, she WILL graduate; an accomplishment in and of itself. She then plans to pursue a career as a high school math teacher.
Congratulations to each of these remarkable, resilient students, and best wishes for continued success!
• CCHS - San Twin and Bruce McCoy
• CTHS - Tiffany Kalevik and RJ Robinson
• EHS - Latisha Alvarado and Justice Smith
• GHS - Monte Hall and Nick Hatt
• OHS - Shamika Quinnie and Jared Lucero
• PREP - Hali Noftsger and Chris Reeverts
• SHHS - Miracle Lewis and Zach Breitnauer