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A row of Dutch Clark students in regalia hold their hands over their hearts as the say the PledgeThe District’s Alternative Education Campus (AEC) celebrated the advancement of 86 scholars as high school diplomas were conferred on the hard-working young men and women who completed their studies through Dutch Clark Digital Online at Paragon Learning Center.
The Class of 2022 marks the fifth, and largest, graduating class for the AEC.
In his welcome address inside the Fortino Ballroom at Pueblo Community College, Principal Richard Mestas pointed out the fact that many of the graduates earned their diplomas in the midst of challenges.
“Over the past few years, we have experienced a great transition in our lives,” he said. Unprecedented times that have allowed us to come together and be creative in how we learn. Our graduates sitting here today have shown great resilience and flexibility over the course of their high school experience. Their ability to transition from one learning environment to another and then back again is a credit to their character and determination.
“Our team believes that our students are the primary focus of all that we do. We recognize that every student is an individual with different desires. As such, we strive to create flexible learning environments, which are responsive to individual circumstances and encourage all students to achieve academic and life goals.” Jetta Myers walks enters the ballroom to Pomp and Circumstance
The commencement address was delivered by Garrison Ortiz, chair of the Pueblo County Commission.
“Congratulations to each and every one of you on this incredibly important step in your life,” Commission Chair Ortiz said. “You have persevered through countless challenges to be here and call yourselves graduates.
“I hope you strive to see, recognize and utilize your circumstances as an advantage. Be proud to be unique and thank all of those here tonight who stood by you to support you, especially when it was tough to do so.”
Two members of the Class of 2022, Jetta Myers and Leah Gallegos, volunteered to speak to their classmates.
“I want to say thank you to Dutch Clark Digital for giving so many students opportunities and chances to complete high school in a different setting and environment other than traditional high school,” Ms. Myers said. “There have been so many times I have slacked off, got distracted or I simply didn’t work hard enough. But we all realize that we don’t get anywhere by slacking off, we don't get anywhere by getting distracted, and we don’t get anywhere when we don’t put in hard work.
“Over the last year I’ve maintained two jobs, working seven days a week, all with Romeo, my three-year old. A lot of us think we can’t push ourselves to be better, or that we can’t always handle everything we have on our plate, but I didn’t even realize how hard I was pushing myself until I was told I’d be graduating. That made me realize I have put my mind to so much and accomplished so much during such a short amount of time. I’ve bought my dream car on my own, I’ve moved into my first apartment with my son and, last but not least, I can say I have earned my diploma.”
 Dutch Clark student Leah Gallegos addresses the audience at the school's commencementIn her remarks, Ms. Gallegos, also a young working mother, similarly pointed out the difficulties that had to be overcome en route to the diploma.
“I have been through a lot in my short 18 years of life. I’ve always had problems at home, family, friends, school and more, but everything I have been through has made me who I am today,” she said.
“Someone once asked me if I could change anything about my life and the things I had been through, if I would. I said ‘no’ because I wouldn’t be as strong, mature, and as wise as I am today, and that is the only way I look at things. If I hit a bump in the road, I know it will only make me stronger as a person, and that absolutely everything in life happens for a reason, no matter the outcome. Going through so much at such a young age made me mature a lot faster than others my age and anyone who knows me knows that.”
Graduating with high marks, Ms. Gallegos’ next step is to continue her education at Colorado State University Pueblo.
“Anything is possible: you just have to have motivation, and that is coming from someone who is somewhat of a troubled kid and a teen mom, which isn’t always a bad thing: it's what you make of it,” she said.
“Like I said, everything happens for a reason, and it got me where I am today. I am telling you this because there are many kids just like me who have gone through similar situations, and this is just the reality of it all.”
A student wearing sunglasses proudly holds his diplomaAlso offering words to the graduates was veteran Paragon Math Teacher Cheryl Clinger. 
“You have made this the most memorable day of your life,” Mrs. Clinger said. “High school graduation opens the door to better paying jobs, college and the military. It can be scary and yet exciting. From this time forth, things will never be the same.
“Your uniqueness makes you special, and makes me confident that you are going to accomplish great things.”
As presented by the Principal, the Class of 2022 was accepted by Dr. Margaret Wright, President of the D60 Board of Education.
The diplomas were conferred by Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso, after which Class of 2022 member Kimberly Siegrist led the traditional tassel change that signifies the start of a new life chapter.
For exemplifying the mission and vision of Paragon, Ms. Siegrist was presented with the Paragon Pilot Award -- which comes with a Pueblo Association of School Executives Scholarship -- by Assistant Principal Julie Shue.
“You’re part of a growing community that finds a new way,” said Assistant Principal Shue to the Class of 2022.
“You refused to listen to the voices in your head that said, ‘You can’t do this. Who do you think you are? Give up.’
“You overcame more and you fought harder. You own that success, and no one can ever take it from you. You are warriors.”
DCD AT PARAGON CLASS OF 2022 A student smiles broadly while holding her diploma
Savanah Rain Acosta
Skiler Rae Aguilar Flores
Elijah Thomas Harley Antu
Jeremiah David Ayala
Ariana Jaden Aragon
Naiely Barraza
Carlito Uriah Archuleta
Bryce Anthony Benavidez
Nevaeh Heaven Baca
Lisa Angel Marie Caro
Emma Nicole Blonke
Antonio Ceido Chacon
Annabella Lynn Branham
Joshua Makahiwa Deville
Kaitlin Lee Clements
Edwin Yahir Flores Hernandez
Jetta Kizzy-Rose Myers
Dakota Kaden Gallagher
Leah Lenae Gallegos
Gordon Dylon Isaiah Gonzales
Jeffrey Michael Nicola Colarelli
Dante David Green-Campos
Dominique Jenae Cortez
Mario Ray Martinez
William Gerald Finn
Aria Milan Pasquin
Chloe Isabelle Froese
Alexia Giovanna Peinado Cangialosi
Paulina Judith Garcia
Daniel Jessie Roybal
Joan Felipe Gomez Garcia
Francisco Ruiz Esparza
Roberto Paul Gonzales
Kameron Lee Trujillo
Jayden Anthony Gonzales-Sanders
Ruben Thomas Trujillo
Kayla Marie Gordon
Jagger John Williams
Isaiah Matthew Gurule
Tashaya Ashanti Williams
Jewelissa Essence Holland
Olivia John Patrice Winkelman
Emma Rose Jarrett
Victoria Ann Knudtson Zamora
Brennan Alexander Kittelson
Iandree Nolee Lara
Jaeden Ann Law
Kevin Elias Lozano
Lexus Mia Lucero
Matthew Jacob Lucero
Dominic Anthony Madrid
Joceline Yvonne Maldonado
Anna Marie Marchetti
Isabel Estrella Marez
Shae Laurin Marine
Karlee Frances Martinez
Nerriah Rae Martinez
Aliyah Michelle Medrano
Kyle William Meyer
Izaiah Michael Martinez
Desarae Cherise O'Neal
Alexis Madalene Ortivez
Martin Rafael Ortiz Payan
Andrew Stephen Papesh
Poppy William Parsons
Diamond Jada Perez
Timothy Alexander Quintana
Jayda Roze Ralya
Sebastian Rivera
Andrea Irene Romero
Jovan Victor Rubio-Torres
Antonio Demetrio Salazar
Arianna Yasmine Sanchez
Roman Alejandro Sandoval
Jason Emillio Shadbolt
Kimberley Rose Siegrist
Joshua Kaleb Soto
Joseph Ambrose Trujillo Vigil
Sabryn Nashara Torres