Big Picture High School graduated 12 students Thursday during a ceremony at Rotary Park.
The group of students are interested in pursuing a variety of fields, including medicine, auto mechanics and entrepreneurship, said Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Karen Cheser.
“I’m honored to be here to be in the place of greatness with you, and I know you're going to do great things,” Cheser said.
The graduation keynote speaker was Wendy Javier, talent search director for Fort Lewis College.
She applauded the students for their ability to persevere through the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She quoted a poem by Mary Oliver called “Wild Geese,” and shared what it meant to feel like an outsider.
The ceremony was accompanied by a performance by rock band Fortune comprised of Big Picture students. It was the first time a musical act had performed at a Big Picture graduation.
Senior class speaker Everett Romero gave a speech at the event detailing his struggles in the classroom while attending Durango High School and how happy he was when he made the switch to Big Picture.
“I felt a warm welcome from people who did not know me. Everyone who was in the building was like a cohesive family,” Romero said.
He talked about the culture of Big Picture and how he was able to make friends while pursuing his educational interests.
“I made long lasting friendships that weren't like any other prior, simply because of the genuineness of everything in the Big Picture,” Romero said.
In a more intimate style than most high school graduations, Big Picture student advisers then took the podium to speak about the students who they’d worked with throughout their four years.
The advisers gave small trinkets, gifts or candy that they felt represented each students’ personality.
Adviser Mark Palmer gave out what he called “a snack, a gateway key, a story and a quote.”
A gateway key represented a skill that he believes will lead each student’s success as they grow older. It was a tradition that he started with graduating students in 2019.
He gave senior Brady Lumsden a bag of Corn Nuts before applauding the student’s executive skills.
“When I met this guy, he was 14 going on 45, and I really hope I can catch up with his level of executive skills when I turn 45 in a couple of weeks,” Palmer said.
The ceremony concluded with Cheser acknowledging that all students had met the requirements for graduation, and Principal Sam Tower had students come forward to accept their diplomas.
“There is no doubt in my mind – and as you heard from everyone else who serve these amazing young people today – that they will change the world,” Tower said. “What an absolute honor to have had this time with you.”