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Crowd Showers SSAE Class of ‘21 with Praise
On a partly cloudy evening in southern Colorado, complete with a passing rain shower, every graduate from the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence graduating class got a moment to shine. Each purple-robed student climbed a few stairs to a stage assembled over home-plate at UCHealth Field and paused to acknowledge the cheering crowd in the stands.
Among those who crossed the stage Friday, May 28, was Austin Beatty, SSAE Class of ‘21, and cancer survivor.
“It's amazing,” Austin said of finishing his senior year. “It's been a hard fought few years. it’s amazing to finally be done.”
The teenager saw his days on the Falcon High School football field vanish with the diagnosis of an aggressive form of the illness. His vision of finishing school in pursuit of a career in physical therapy never faltered. Pushing through chemotherapy, and school, -- made even more challenging by the COVID pandemic -- Austin crossed the finish line with a diploma and a plan for the future.
“Now that I’ve beaten cancer, that's a new part of my life that I want to help everybody who is in my situation get through,” he explained. “I’ve made it through one of the hardest battles of my life. Anything that goes on from here on out, I know that I can fall back on beating something that not many have had to go through.”
“He’s only beginning,” said Austin’s father Eric. “He’s going to touch a lot of lives.”
SSAE staff called Austin’s name as one of the recipients of the SSAE GRIT Award, one of many similar titles presented to students during the ceremony:
- Student of the Year: Ashley Singer
- Academic Scholar Award: Jacob Welch (Also: 2021 Coca-Cola Scholarship recipient)
- Grit Award: Iain Ennis, Austin Beatty
- Pathway Pioneer Award: Elijah Wittasek
- Excellence in Design Award: Mason Peterson
- Student Leadership Award: Arwyn Higgins
- Excellence in Creativity:
- Excellence in Digital Arts: Charlie Roach
- Excellence in Studio Arts: Emily Blumenhein
IConnect Zone Superintendent Andy Franko encouraged the class of ‘21 to remember learning does not end with commencement.
“Understand that you will not be prepared for all that life throws at you, but the more often you practice doing the right thing, the more quickly you will react in the right way,” Fanko told them in his keynote address. “As teachers, it has been our goal to fill you with the wisdom and knowledge you need to take on to your next journey in life. A journey in the world that is ever-changing.”
As he concluded, Franko finished with a final assignment: “The years you have spent in school leading to this day and graduation have developed and molded you. It is now time to show the world who you are.”
As they turned the tassels on their mortar boards in unison, the SSAE Class of 2021 showed their teachers and families they are ready for the task.