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To the Ridgway Graduating Class of 2004….

I sat in the audience on Friday ..and watched the Ridgway H.S. Graduation ceremony in our new 4H building…..and reflected on my son, Nicky, & my own experiences with this class.

Our first introduction to this class (in the fourth grade) was our appearance at the 4th grade class door. It was 1 week into the 4th grade & 1 week after Nicky’s father had suddenly passed away. Nicky had been visiting Ridgway for 2 summers and had made some connections. When his Dad past away, I gave him the option to stay in Ft. Lauderdale & the school that he had attended for 6 years, or move to Ridgway. He chose Ridgway & so we moved almost over night. As we stood at the door…young Joey Shane (Nicky’s new summer friend) ran up to Nicky and put his arms around him & hugged him saying “…Everything will be alright!!!”. And, so Ridgway community….. it was! The perfect safe community to come to in times of need to raise a child alone..

All students became close and great friends during Nicky’s years at Ridgway School. I have watched as all became fine young people with a future for all & lasting friendships to carry with them always.

During the ceremony the Valedictorian read a list of the most memorable happenings for the classes and listed “Ms. Snelling’s trip to Young Ameritown to Denver…to learn how to run a business”…..I felt a few tears in my eyes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the School to Career Grant, I wrote the grant & was the Ridgway School to Career Partnership Coordinator for three years and Chair of the Ridgway School District Accountability Committee for two years.

The class of 2004 (my son’s class until 11th grade) was the recipient of all of those grant dollars / programs including: Young Ameritown / The Real Game / True Colors / Career in the Arts Career Fair / Job Shadowing. The purpose of that grant was to “make education relevant by doing and experiencing”…and “to connect the school with the business community”. Young Ameritown was accomplished with the help from many Ridgway teachers, many Ridgway business owners, parents & two other schools (Ouray & Lake City). Thanks to all of you who participated and made it a memorable success for this class. Thanks to this newspaper for covering it all!!

That single acknowledgment of its importance and a place in their memories, made those collective 5 years of my service in this community & for Ridgway Schools worth every hurtle & struggle, that comes with a paradigm change, & solidified them into lasting successes for me.

Several graduates of that class are continuing on into post secondary vocational-technical schools. One in particular is the welding school. This love for welding started during an additional fellowship-grant that I had the privilege to co-write the original with science-tech teacher Ms. Bartley for the “Solar Car” project that has been so successful at Ridgway Schools. Nicky participated in the 9th & 10 grade.

Nicky is also a product of those “School to Career” years. Unfortunately, he had to transfer to Montrose HS in the 11 grade to be able to take the 11-12 grade state-wide culinary class “Pro-Start”.(as Ridgway was too small to offer the courses). Nicky will go on to Culinary College this fall. However, Nicky’s close friends remained in Ridgway. He said that night…”I should have been up there with my class & friends….” He probably cleared a tear also.

It has been an honor and a privilege to have been able to be a pro-active part in the progress of Ridgway Schools, this community and this graduating class of 2004. The “School to Career” movement thanks this community for being a valued part of that process…and I again thank this class for being the “guinea pigs” for such great programs…

Kudos to your strength for having Robert Dennis as commencement speaker….

My Tao, to the community and parents, is to “become involved in the schools’ projects and committees…..it will surly enrich your life in ways you can not imagine…while giving back to the community and the children…It does take a “Village to raise a child”…step up and be part of it…”!!

Thank you Class of 2004…for being part of our lives…we will never forget you…

Judi Snelling

Former Colorado State School to Career Region V, Board member
Former Ridgway School to Career Partnership, Coordinator
Former Ridgway School Accountability Committee, Chair

Nick Pasquariello
Former 2004 Class Member
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