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Basalt High seniors learned how to learn to adapt

Despite challenges, class of 2021 proved resilient

Mari Elliott, Samantha Limongelli and Esther Mercado
Special to The Aspen Times

High school is portrayed as a wonderful place of growth where you make friends and discover your passions. In some ways this representation is accurate, but usually the reality is far less exciting and there are no convenient music cues for students to sing their problems away to.

When the class of 2021 approached Basalt High School on their first day, they were not presented with newly opened doors but instead a temporary plywood structure which composed the makeshift entrance. Construction continued for months, and getting to class while maneuvering orange tape and exposed plywood was a unique challenge that mirrored the uncertainty of high school itself.

Unfortunately, a much greater challenge awaited this class in November 2017 when one of our fellow classmates passed away. Our class had to learn to be stronger and to cope with insurmountable grief. Patrick Palardy is not forgotten and one of his most famous phrases, “Don’t worry about it,” now rings truer than ever. Since 2017, so much has changed and our school and valley have faced more challenges, but if the class of 2021 is anything, we are resilient.



Our class has been a dynamic and competitive one, as demonstrated through our diverse college pathways. Sierra Bower will run cross country and track for Furman University and Shea Card will swim for Denison University. Isaac Musselman received an early presidential appointment to the prestigious Air Force Academy. Mari Elliott will attend Yale University. In fact, over 85% of our class will attend an institution for higher learning in the fall, our school’s highest percentage in recent years. Whether in the classroom, on the court or in the choir room, competition within our grade has been fierce.

Despite this competitiveness, we have come together as a community when faced with serious situations. During the Lake Christine Fire, our school was converted into a refuge for evacuees displaced by the inferno. Many students and their families took shelter within the building, and many others donated supplies to their classmates. As we have aged, our class has faced an unfortunate number of difficulties, but the lessons our class has learned watching the BHS staff adapt alongside us is more beneficial than anything learned in the classroom. As we move forward with our lives, we do believe these lessons are the ones we will take with us.




The pandemic upending our junior and senior years has been our most recent obstacle.

Some of us flourished in a remote classroom; they were in their element, secluded from the world around them with no rigid schedule dictating their day. But on the other hand, this new environment was detrimental to many who felt trapped in their own homes and longed to return to school and to normalcy.

Our best senior gift was returning to BHS last November. However, in-person learning has been anything but ordinary. No longer making our way through construction zones, we instead adhered to strict hallway laws and floor tape that ensured social distancing. This incredible change in social dynamic was a shock and difficult to cope with, but the Class of 2021 had already spent three years becoming equipped to deal with change.

Many of us have watched hundreds of movies fantasizing what this incredible time in our lives was supposed to look like, but nothing could have prepared us for our senior year. Ultimately, our experience has been more unique and shocking than any story outlined in a film. Though this is true mainly for negative reasons, perhaps we ought to be grateful for having had a year so memorable. At the end of the day, all we can do is embrace the unexpected and create some good memories.

The students in our class are off to accomplish some incredible feats. Everyone in this diverse class has passions going in every direction, and many have strong plans to pursue them. It’s been an honor to be a part of the BHS class of 2021.

Mari Elliott, Samantha Limongelli and Esther Mercado are graduating seniors at Basalt High School. Elliott will attend Yale University after graduation; Limongelli will attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Mercado will attend Colorado Mesa University.


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