10 Students — a Record — Prepare for Friday’s Eagle Rock Graduation

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As our latest trimester (ER-78) draws to a close, Eagle Rock School is overjoyed to celebrate the largest class to graduatefrom our nationally-recognized high school since we  first opened our doors some 26 years ago.

This is the first time in our 78 trimesters that we’ve entered double-digit territory, with an impressive total of 10 students set to receive their high school diplomas during a 4 p.m. MST ceremony that will be broadcasted live through our Facebook page from our on-campus Human Performance Center.

Below, in order of the student’s tenure here at Eagle Rock, we’re pleased to present a short biography on each of our latest graduates, along with their favorite memories of Eagle Rock, short- and long-term goals and objectives, and thoughts for current and incoming Eagle Rock School students:

Victor Rodarte

Victor (arrived at Eagle Rock in September of 2015) hails from Pacoima Calif, The youngest of five children, Victor started his Eagle Rock career as a member of Pinon House, but graduates as an equally proud member of Juniper House.

Victor has been involved in so many activities at Eagle Rock, from hiking Longs Peak to doing service with our on-campus maintenance crew. He says that because he has been here for so many years and has had so many experiences, he finds it difficult to know where to start when asked about his involvement.

His favorite memory is running back to the Eagle Rock campus at the end of his Wilderness Orientation in the fall of 2015. He said he wasn’t expecting his family to be at the run-in, and he was pleasantly surprised and happy to see his sister and cousin present to celebrate his 24-day accomplishment.

Victor’s first bit of business upon departing our campus is to get a driver’s license. Further down the line, he intends to work with a construction or mechanics crew.

His advice to incoming Eagle Rockers is to “live one life,” which he says means students should live a life that is consistent with their values, both at Eagle Rock and in other communities.

Amr Johnstone

Amr (arrived at Eagle Rock in January of 2016) is from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States. Since most of his life was spent in the Middle East, Amr said he faced a cultural shift upon arriving on U.S. soil. He has experienced differences ranging from food to religion, adding that while he hasn’t completely wrapped his head around all Western beliefs, he has reconciled some of those differences by sticking with his core beliefs. At Eagle Rock, Amr lived in Pinon House.

During his three-and-a-half years with us, Amr took part of many opportunities designed to foster personal growth and development among our student population. For a short while, he participated in Mag 7student group comprised of Eagle Rock’s veteran students that  have the responsibility of supporting evening and weekend activities. Amr also managed the campus greenhouse and campus garden for several trimesters.

Much like his fellow graduate Victor, Amr’s favorite memory here is the 24-day Wilderness Orientation. Often, he wishes he could go back into the backcountry for a respite from society, noise, and drama. Being in and around Wilderness taught Amr how to stay away from drama and irrelevant matters.

For his short-term objectives, Amr plans on getting a job and becoming financially independent and stable. Long-term, he’d like to move to Albuquerque and live on his own. A piece of wisdom Amr shares is this: “Don’t get involved in unimportant, irrelevant things. It’s already tough to be here, so getting involved in drama makes it even tougher.”

Morgan Pierce

Morgan (arrived at Eagle Rock in May of 2016) says he was raised well outside the town of Lyons, Colo., which meant his family could be loud without disrupting others, which wasn’t case at Eagle Rock — where he gained an appreciation for calmness. He graduates this week as a member of Juniper House.

At Eagle Rock, Morgan was involved in last trimester’s musical theater production, which came as a result of our Music Theatre Intensive class. He describes the class as a massive learning experience that gave him the opportunity to become more outgoing and sociable.

When prompted to talk about his favorite memory of Eagle Rock, Morgan again turns to the highlights of being involved in that musical production, having fun with the musical cast and laughing at many inside jokes.

As for his plans after Eagle Rock, Morgan says his friends will have to wait and see what he decides to take on. But his bit of advice for new students is this: “Eagle Rock is a hectic place. Face that hectic nature in a calm, collected manner.”

Matthew DiPretoro

Matthew (arrived at Eagle Rock in September of 2016) comes from Kentucky, which he describes as “the best state ever.” On campus, he was an essential part of Juniper House.

In his time at Eagle Rock, Matthew became a certified lifeguard, started a gaming club, and according to his Presentations of Learning and the feedback he received from peers and instructors alike, improved his social skills.

Matthew recalls the five-week lifeguarding course as his favorite experience at Eagle Rock because it taught him the basic necessities of CPR, First Aid, and  use of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). He views the skills he learned as a small step toward his objective of attending and graduating from medical school. He is also grateful for the opportunity to become a certified lifeguard because it opens the doors to other lifeguarding jobs after Eagle Rock.

Matthew’s short-term goals include to marrying his fiancée and moving to Nevada before eventually returning to Kentucky to attend the University of Kentucky Medical School.

His advice to Eagle Rockers? Simple and sweet: “Take your time.”

Ryan Singer

Ryan (arrived at Eagle Rock in January of 2017) was born in Kazakhstan, Asia, and was adopted when he was 10 months old. He has lived in Southern California since then, growing up in the city of Chatsworth. Some of his hobbies include being outdoors, skateboarding, and snowboarding.

Ryan was a part of Ponderosa House on campus, which he describes as the best house, filled with the most hardworking students. Over the course of his time at Eagle Rock, Ryan obtained a lifeguarding and Wilderness First Aid certification. He was also awarded a scholarship to participate in an Outward Bound course. His short-term objective is to find a steady job. His long-term goal is to be successful as a real estate agent.

Ryan’s advice for Eagle Rock students is this: “Try your best to be yourself and as hard as it is, do your best to not compare yourself to others.”

Hendrick Paz

Hendrick (arrived at Eagle Rock in January of 2017) is from Simi Valley, Calif., a small city where the residents are mostly family or have known each other for generations. There, Hendrick lived with his mom, his dad, his sister, a dog named Ben, and a cat named Leo. On campus, Hendrick lived in Aspen House.

Hendrick was the Aspen House Leader as well as a Kitchen Patrol Leader for more than a year. In these roles, he supported Aspen students in the house as well as in the kitchen. He has also served as a Mag 7 leader, supporting staff members with evening activities, and participated in a 30-day backpacking  course in Wyoming offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

His favorite memory is a late-night session in the Aspen boy’s wing where him and a couple of other students enjoyed an animated conversation and couldn’t stop laughing.

Hendrick’s postgrad objectives include completing a semester course offered by Outward Bound and receiving his Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification. In the long run, Hendrick plans on getting a bachelor’s degree in either environmental studies or biology. He’d like to attend University of California — Santa Barbara because he likes the area and it’s close to home.

He urges current and incoming Eagle Rock students to “clean your wings.”

Kenneth Lembert

Kenneth (arrived at Eagle Rock in January of 2017) is a 19-year resident of the Bronx in New York, where all his family members live — except for those who remain in the Dominican Republic. At Eagle Rock, he was part of Aspen House.

Kenny held a couple of leadership positions on campus, including Mag 7 — the veteran student group that supports evening and weekend activities.He served in Mag 7 for about a year. Additionally, he supported the Student Mentor Program for two trimesters, which he said was important to him because he enjoyed his role as the connector between new and veteran students. Kenny took his responsibility in picking the right veteran students to lead and participate in the program very seriously.

Kenny’s favorite memory while at Eagle Rock was  attending the 2019 Strive’s Sports Challenge at Haverford College. During this experience, he focused on himself as a student athlete and leader and developed skills on and off the basketball court. He learned about leadership in a variety of different ways, which he says has impacted and developed him as a person.

For his short-term objectives, Kenny plans on studying mechanical engineering. In the long run, Kenny plans on saving up money to move to Florida where he plans on opening his own automobile mechanic shop.

Kenny’s would tell new students this: “There’s a lot of little things that take up energy here, and while it might seem like a waste of your time, put your full effort into it. In the end, everything is worth it. You also won’t get in trouble if you do that.”

Abigail Duenas

Abigail (arrived at Eagle Rock in May of 2017) is from both California and Honduras. Her dad is from El Salvador and her immediate family consists of her three siblings and her single-parenting mom. Abigail is currently 17 years old and graduates as a proud member of Pinon House.

In her time with us, Abby sang and acted in Eagle Rock’s spring 2018 production of the musical Allegiance, where she learned about the history of Japanese internment camps. Abby also visited Washington, D.C., with a couple of Eagle Rock students and staff on a Professional Development Center trip to SparkHouse, which is an initiative of Education Reimagined that convened students from all over the world to discuss nontraditional schooling.

Her favorite memory of Eagle Rock is the 24-day Wilderness Orientation with her ‘all-girl’ patrol. She remembers rock climbing with them and having a blast.

Abby’s short-term plans after Eagle Rock are to nanny for her old houseparents’ in Colorado for nine months. After that, she plans on returning to California and going to Cal State University at Northridge.

She would like to remind Eagle Rockers to “focus on yourself and not the drama.”

April Ojeda

April (arrived at Eagle Rock in May of 2017) is from sunny California, and a supportive Mexican family. April lost her dad when she was 10 years old, so her family consists of her mom, sister, two nieces. She graduates as a member of Juniper House.

April’s involvement on campus includes serving as the lead Art Angel, Kitchen Patrol Leader, House Leader, and Mag 7 Leader. As an Art Angel lead, April held the responsibility of opening and closing the art building and hosting up to three other students to work on art projects. As the Kitchen Patrol Leader and House Leader, she supported Juniper House in completing chores.

Her favorite memory of Eagle Rock School is last year’s 25th anniversary celebration, where she said seeing people come together from both the past and present made her feel really good. It showed her a bigger Eagle Rock community for which she is a part.

Shortly after graduating, April plans on getting a job to pay off bills. In the long run, she wants to be find happiness within herself and in her life. April also aims to become a neuroscientist and the best artist ever.

A piece of advice she would like to share with Eagle Rock students is that “receiving support from others is nice, but the support you give yourself is the best support.”

Ellis Bonin

Ellis (arrived at Eagle Rock in May of 2017) was born in Louisiana but has primarily lived in Colorado. Her family consists of her two older brothers and her parents. On campus, Ellis was part of Aspen House.

During her time here, Ellis took on every leadership role on campus, including being the Aspen girl’s wing leader, Mag 7 Leader, co-teaching the course Sacrificial Poets, rebooting the Wilderness student instructor program, and participating in the musical Allegiance.

She also supported the work of our Professional Development Center as a Student Ambassador. In that role, Ellis traveled to Washington, D.C. to work with Education Reimagined, as well as to Flagstaff, Ariz., to work with the Alpine Institute within Flagstaff Unified School District. Ellis has sat on various panels for visiting educators, provided countless tours to prospective students and their families, and attended a Honda Leadership Program dinner with Honda employees.

Her favorite memory of Eagle Rock is the Green River trip that is sometimes offered during Explore Week. She is appreciative of the opportunity to go on a beautiful trip with amazing people. Ellis brings up a day where Moe, another student on the trip, did not paddle at all because he was too busy playing the guitar. Ellis says that Eliza Kate Wicks-Arshack, our Outdoor Education Instructional Specialist, rowed that day for both of them.

Shortly following her graduation, Ellis plans on redecorating her room at home, setting up meetings with her college advisor, and getting her free RTD pass as she gets ready to start a semester of college-level learning at Metropolitan State University in Denver. Her long-term objectives include figuring out a fulfilling career path, finding things that push her out of her comfort zone, traveling, and eating good food.

To current and incoming Eagle Rock Students, Ellis has this piece of advice: “Allow yourself to have your own experiences. The only person who can hold yourself to your best and highest potential is yourself. Take advantage of Eagle Rock.”

Please join us in congratulating our latest graduates. To watch these 10 remarkable young adults receive their high school diplomas — and to see how Eagle Rock School celebrates graduation — tune in live at 4 p.m. MST today (Aug. 9, 2019) via the Eagle Rock Page on Facebook, or visit the page any time after today’s date to replay the ceremony online.

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