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Andres Rubio wearing his cap and gown speaks at the commencement ceremony More than 120 scholars who found a welcoming home, and a fresh start on what’s shaping up to be a bright future, officially ended their high school journey Thursday evening at the Southwest Motors Events Center.
This sixth commencement ceremony for the alternative education campus Dutch Clark Digital Online at Paragon Learning Center saw scholars from all walks of life rewarded for their dedication and perseverance, often through challenging times.
Rich Mestas, Principal of DCD at Paragon, explained that the needs of the scholar always come first.
“We believe our students are special and that each and every one of them deserves a learning experience that is customized to them,” Principal Mestas said. “We strive to create flexible learning environments, which are responsive to individual circumstances and encourage all students to achieve academic and life goals.”
Principal Mestas noted that several members of the Class of 2023 have concurrently earned college credits and/or WorkKeys credits, which testify to career readiness, and are already serving, or will serve, in the military.
Assistant Principal Julie Shue referred to the Class of 2023 as “warriors,” encouraging them to retain that warrior’s mentality through life.
In her address, Student Body President Macaria Coggins encouraged her fellow graduates to approach the future with confidence and expectations.
“As you move forward, I encourage you to stay true to your values and to never compromise your integrity. Take the lessons you’ve learned over the past four years and apply them to your future endeavors. Be curious, be open to new experiences, and never stop learning.”
Also selected to address the Class of 2023 were Leiorne Caldwell and Andres Rubio.
“Graduation is your biggest achievement so far, but it will not be your last,” Leiorne said. “Follow your dreams, cast away your doubts, and know that you are doing something not everyone has the opportunity to do. Graduation is not a given, but the result of all of your work that has come to fruition.”
Andres, the son of a single mother who became a father at the age of 14, found in the educators and support staff of Dutch Clark Digital the encouragement and support he needed, and desired, to turn his life around.
“Out of all the schools I attended, Dutch Clark Digital at Paragon was the only one that made me feel welcome,” he said. “My teachers taught me that while sometimes we have a plan and expectation for how our lives will go, changes happen, and we must be flexible. They helped me realize you can either be a product of your environment or change your setting.
“They supported me and helped me grow in ways most teachers never do.”
The Paragon Pilot Award, sponsored by the Pueblo Association of School Executives, is awarded to the senior who best exemplifies the mission and vision of Paragon Learning Center.
To be eligible, the scholar must have attended Paragon for at least one full year, with acceptance into a two- or four-year college or university.
As selected by the Paragon leadership team, Genevieve Schlanser is the recipient of the 2023 Paragon Pilot Award. Additionally, Ondrea Roldan was acknowledged for receiving a full ride scholarship to Colorado State University Pueblo, and Anthony Martinez an athletic scholarship.
Following the acceptance of the class, the diplomas were conferred by Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso. Senior Class President Kailany Reyes Serrano led the tassel change, thereby sending these Pilots into a future filled with promise.
The ceremony featured a musical performance by D60 scholar musicians Day Dream, who completed the first Perfect World Music Academy, under the direction of Carl Lucero. The original song was created and crafted in the studio, and unveiled for the first time to honor the graduates of DCD at Paragon.