Online Ceremony Marks Celebration for Eagle Rock School’s Newest Grads

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As we continue to operate almost entirely online amid COVID-19, we again switched things up — this time for our 81st trimester graduates — with an online Celebration of Graduates.

Those graduating this trimester include Forrest Henninger, Ethan Gallagher, and Daniel Rios. Traditionally, graduation ceremonies take place in the Human Performance Center on our campus in Estes Park, Colo. However, due to the health pandemic, our campus has remained closed to students and visitors since March, and all of our staff and students have remained engaged through remote work and learning.

The 81st trimester Celebration of Graduates was delivered online last week through Zoom, highlighted by a video containing faculty speeches, remembrances, pictures, shout outs, and advice to new and current Eagle Rock School students from the departing graduates themselves.

Although a live pomp and circumstance celebration was not an option again this trimester, Forrest, Ethan, and Daniel have the opportunity to “walk” the next time an in-person graduation can take place on campus.

Below are biographies of each graduate, including information about what they learned, what they achieved, and what their future plans entail:

Forrest Henninger

Forrest, arriving at Eagle Rock in January of 2018, is from Boulder, Colo., and was a member of Ponderosa House.

Throughout his time at Eagle Rock, Forrest dedicated himself to growing as an artist and pushing the boundaries of his personal growth and development. He took advantage of opportunities to explore new artistic mediums, such as collage, screen printing, digital art, and graffiti. During one Explore Week — a intersession held each trimester where a combination of outside and internal instructors lead workshops on and off campus — Forrest learned the process of screen printing under the guidance of two screen printing professionals from Denver. This prompted him to design, create and sell his own apparel.

Although his development as an artist was a key component of his Eagle Rock experience, he never lost sight of his personal growth. Forrest describes asking himself questions like, “What do I look like when I’m most successful?,” “How am I a leader in the community?,” and “How do I hold myself accountable?” He stepped into different leadership roles during his time at Eagle Rock, including being an Art Angel and hosting students in the school Art Building, as well as painting different murals for the school.

As he begins his next chapter, Forrest wishes to express gratitude to the many Eagle Rock staff members who were part of his journey. He is grateful for Carlos Perez and Elizabeth Rivera for being his houseparents; for Cindy Elkins’ commitment as his visual arts instructional specialist; and for Megan Rebeiro, L’Tanya Perkins, Beth Ellis, and Jeff Liddle’s commitment to making Eagle Rock a better place.

Following his graduation, Forrest will be attending college on a scholarship to study illustration.

Ethan Gallagher

Ethan arrived at Eagle Rock in the fall of 2018from West Kingston, RI, and was a member of Piñon House.

When reflecting on his experiences at Eagle Rock, Ethan starts with his wilderness orientation course and how it set the tone for his time at the school. Before departing for the expedition, he and his patrol were briefed by the director of students, Megan Rebeiro. During the course, Megan challenged the students to find something in themselves that they had never discovered before, and Ethan did just that. He describes learning to be his own person while in the wilderness, nurturing his creative and artistic side, and appreciating stillness.

Aside from these lessons learned on the trail, Ethan he has taken to heart the idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” While at Eagle Rock, he challenged himself to appreciate what he did have and find positivity and value in things in which he wasn’t always a big fan. Things like working kitchen patrol and attending different community gatherings. Reframing these activities as an opportunity for hard work or a time to enjoy others’ company, helped Ethan find gratitude in them, which he admits helped him adjust to finishing his studies and graduating from Eagle Rock in the age of COVID-19, where learning online was how it was done.

In the coming months, Ethan plans to pursue his love for the outdoors and hands-on work. He will be earning certifications in emergency medical services as a wilderness first responder, and as a search and rescue technician. For our part, we will remember Ethan fondly as a Renaissance man because of his athletic prowess, artistic talent, philosophical mind, and generous spirit.

Daniel Rios

Daniel, who arrived at Eagle Rock in the winter of 2018 from Aurora, Colo., started his on-campus residency as part of Lodgepole House and graduates as a proud member of Spruce House.

Over the course of his Eagle Rock career, Daniel says he learned a lot and taught others valuable lessons. He describes one of his major learnings as “I am worthy of learning.” With this in mind, Daniel explains that he recommitted to his schoolwork and also found joy in it. However, he did not remain passive with his learning: he chose to act upon it. Daniel committed to serious work in exploring his identity, subsequently stepping into leadership roles. These include serving as a kitchen patrol leader for three trimesters and helping lead a Spanish enrichment class to help teach others the language.

Daniel says he now better understands what it means to be an engaged global citizen, which is one of Eagle Rock’s five commitments. He emphasizes the importance of using one’s voice, and he advises new students to speak up and stand up for themselves. In tandem with being an engaged global citizenship, he encourages others to “not turn a blind eye” to the injustices and problems in our world — to recognize these issues and teach others about them.

As he finished his time at Eagle Rock, Daniel honored many staff members for their support during his time here on campus and while finishing up his learning at home. Specifically, he expressed gratitude to Sara Benge for her role in helping him rediscover his love for learning, and to Jesse Tovar for encouraging him to finish his experience at Eagle Rock strong. Looking ahead, Daniel plans to work and continue his education.

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