Aspen High School honors students for achievements, character at senior awards ceremony |

Aspen High School honors students for achievements, character at senior awards ceremony

Class of 2022 earned nearly $380,000 across 148 individual scholarships

Aspen High School principal Sarah Strassburger congratulates valedictorian Gemma Hill (center) and salutatorian Laila Khan-Farooqi at the Aspen High School’s senior awards ceremony for the graduation class of 2022 at the District Theatre on Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The senior awards ceremony for Aspen High School’s class of 2022 had all the familiar hallmarks on Thursday evening in the District Theater: honors for students’ academic and extracurricular accomplishments and praise for their growth, leadership, determination and grit.

This time around, the ceremony also included something new when principal Sarah Strassburger and assistant principal Becky Oliver recognized each and every individual senior in the graduating class by name and doling out custom kudos for students’ spirit, passions and quirks as well as their accomplishments.

What became clear was that these students are deeply committed not only to their studies or their sports but also to one another and to their community. Character was as much a valued trait on Thursday night as any other.


“First, the Aspen Chapel would like to recognize all of the Aspen High School graduating seniors for your efforts in contributing a positive spirit to our community,” said Barbara Owen, a trustee for the Aspen Chapel who presented the chapel’s Spirit Award. “Your collective effort is what makes this Aspen and the world a better place.”

The students are quite committed to their studies and their sports, too. This year, 38 donor groups awarded 148 individual scholarships totaling yearly $380,000 in funds for students’ post graduate pursuits, according to Susanne Morrison, the administrative coordinator at Aspen High School’s post-secondary counseling department.

Josh Berro, an Aspen High School guidance counselor who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening, thanked the community for its generosity and support of Aspen High School’s students.

“We truly are so grateful to live in a community that cares so much about its young people and their futures,” Berro said.

Strassburger also acknowledged the parents of the class of 2022 for their support.

“We recognize your support, your love and just your cheerleading from the side has helped everyone reach this milestone,” she said.

The ceremony also recognized a full slate of academic and extracurricular achievements, including honors for the Colorado Seal of Biliteracy, International Baccalaureate diploma and Pacesetter department awards, as well as certifications for becoming a private pilot, ski or snowboard instructor and yoga instructor. (See sidebar: Awards and honors.)

The graduates include 32 IB diploma candidates, some of whom are among the 21 students who earned the Colorado Seal of Biliteracy this year, as well. Many of the students heard their names called multiple times over the course of the evening as they were honored for their hard work in school and outside the classroom.


The class of 2022 will be heading all over the country and the world after they graduate, according to Morrison.

The majority of students — estimated at around 86%, accounting for 118 students in total – have plans to head to a four-year college in one of at least 32 states and six countries. Another 3% of the graduating class plans to head to a two-year school.

Student destinations stretch from coast to coast and everywhere in between (with plenty staying close to home in Colorado, too) as well as overseas to schools in France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Scotland.

Another nine students (accounting for 7% of the graduating class) plan to take a gap year, and a couple of students each plan to head to a trade or professional school or an apprenticeship. One student plans to join the military and another plans to enter the workforce.

Select Academic Awards and Honors

For a full list of award recipients, keep an eye out for a special graduation insert in the June 4 edition of The Aspen Times.


Gemma Hill


Laila Khan-Farooqi

Colorado Seal of Biliteracy

Sebastian Cisneros, Isabella Haneman, Thea Hecht, Gemma Hill, Laila Khan-Farooqi, Reese Leonard, Christian Marenco, Flora Marolt, Stella McAniff, Alexander McAniff, Cadan O’Connell, Yana Pekelkis, Grace Petersen, Carter Schmela, Michele “Mia” Seltzer, Jacob Siegel, Lags Simeone, Isabela Soria, Devin Thomas, Ansel Whitley, Claire Wolfer-Jenkins

Awarded to students who attain proficiency or higher in one or more world language in addition to proficiency or higher in English as determined by the Colorado Department of Education

International Baccalaureate Diploma Candidates

Elle Amatullah, Amy Amaya, Joseph Clark, Nadia Debska, Calla Diemer, Devi Gallagher, Stella Halferty, Isabella Haneman, Nikki Harris, Thea Hecht, Robert Holton, Lily Jacobson, Lynn Jara, Ava Kaplan, Reece Leonard, Christian Marenco, Florence Marolt, Stella McAniff, Yana Pekelkis, Grace Petersen, River Pillans, Gabriel Rodriguez, Michele “Mia” Seltzer, Jacob Siegel, Hannah Smith, Will Stiller, Kayla Tehrani, Devin Thomas, Kara Van Alstine, Claire Wolfer-Jenkins, Laurel Yule, Zane Zachary.

National Merit Semifinalist

Laila Khan-Farooqi

Awarded on a state-representative basis to students who score within the top 1% on the PSAT


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