Basalt High graduates 73 seniors on Saturday during 2017 commencement | AspenTimes.com

Basalt High graduates 73 seniors on Saturday during 2017 commencement

A 2008 Basalt High School graduate, Luis Morales took a difficult road to reach where he is now. He grew up in south-central Los Angeles, the product of a single mother, before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley prior to his junior year at BHS.

Morales, now the restorative justice and educational counselor at Greenlee Elementary in Denver, told his story to the 73 Basalt seniors who graduated Saturday at the BHS football field. The story included the time he was kicked out of the University of Colorado following an altercation with a police officer at a bar.

He regrouped at Metropolitan State University, eventually earning re-admittance to CU where he graduated with a degree in international Spanish for the professions.

"My purpose in my life is to serve my community," Morales told the students in his keynote speech. "What are you guys going to do with your opportunities? It's not about where you may have started. It's about where you are going to finish."

Of the 73 graduating seniors in the 2017 class, 90 percent are planning to pursue a college degree. Thirty local organizations and individuals combined to give more than $330,000 in scholarships to 37 BHS seniors.

"Without the help of those around us, we would not have been pushed to our full potential," senior class leader Julia Gutierrez said. "It has not been easy to get to where we are now, and it will not be easy moving forward. It will take trust, determination and creativity, qualities the class of 2017 does not lack."

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Among the scholarships awarded, Daniel Barnes received one of the biggest prizes. He was awarded the Boettcher Foundation Scholarship, which will allow him to attend Colorado College on a full, four-year scholarship. Morelia Bautista earned the Dream U.S. renewable $25,000 scholarship to attend Colorado State University.

"Basalt High School taught me many things, but the most important thing it taught me was always to make my voice be heard," Bautista said. "All of us experience high school differently, and what matters is we are all ending it the same way. Today we graduate with the weight of the world on our shoulders."

Also awarded Saturday during graduation were the "Wall of Fame" awards. These are given to one senior girl and boy who "express the values of the class and the legacy it wants to leave." The awards were handed out to Gutierrez and Michael Glen. Their pictures will hang on the wall in the main lobby of the high school.

Class valedictorians were Barnes and Clayton Montgomery.

"These students graduating today are tremendously passionate and fiercely motivated and I'm glad I spent the last four years with you all," Montgomery said in his speech. "We always pushed each other to be better and study harder, and for that I thank you."

acolbert@aspentimes.com