Seniors that didn’t stop |

Seniors that didn’t stop

Middle Park High School graduates Class of 2021

Middle Park seniors throw their caps after being presented as Middle Park High School’s Class of 2021.
Eli Pace /

Middle Park High School has graduated 98 impressive students despite the COVID-19 pandemic that colored every aspect of their senior year.

From wearing facemasks each school day to a scaled-back graduation, the Class of 2021 truly had a year like no other.

Valedictorian Lesley Ruiz is the first to admit the challenges that the pandemic presented as she fought the lack of motivation that set in when school shut down last March.

Ruiz is no stranger to overcoming challenges, and graduating with honors despite the pandemic was just another obstacle overcome by the graduate who couldn’t speak English when she started kindergarten.

Valedictorian Lesley Ruiz returns to her seat after speaking in front of her class during their graduation ceremony.
Eli Pace /

Getting to attend school in person this year — despite how weird it was to get used to facemasks — was something Ruiz was happy could happen. She knows her teachers worked hard to make her senior year as normal as it could be and commended her classmates for making it possible.

“I think that everybody really came together,” Ruiz said. “We were all able to respect the rules and stay pretty safe throughout the whole pandemic.”

Middle Park was able to keep in-person learning for the most part, though the school battled a number of quarantines throughout the year.

Ruiz felt that she and her classmates grew closer because of these challenges. She pointed to camping trips and an end of the year water balloon fight that brought the class together.

“We tried to get the most out of it so we could get the most real experience for our senior year,” Ruiz said. “I think everybody who was in person was connected in that way because we were trying to go for a common goal.”

Graduating seniors at Middle Park High School react as they watch a slideshow during their graduation ceremony on Saturday.
Eli Pace /

Ruiz helped tutor underclassmen this year, played on the volleyball team and was a member of both Interact Club and the National Honor Society. She’s also leaving for college with the help of seven local scholarships.

“I’m a first generation student also so that’s really cool for my parents to see,” Ruiz said. “I just want to be a good influence on my siblings and on other students like that.”

She plans to attend the University of New Mexico with the hopes of finding a job on the business side of the medical field. That was something she grew a passion for after helping her dad with his business paperwork and an internship at the hospital.

“I’m most proud of the fact that I didn’t stop,” Ruiz said of her senior year. “I didn’t stop trying to do the (hardest) classes. I didn’t stop trying at school because of everything that was happening. I kept going with AP courses and even honors classes to do the best I could.”

Middle Park’s graduating class walks away with a number of impressive students. Combined, the Class of 2021 has received $134,725 in local scholarships.

Along with Ruiz, Middle Park salutatorian Ella Wiser, Jackson Harvey, Abby Kuhnel, Bethanne Droll, Canyon Jarbo, Krista Conrad, Brianna Renteria Rios, Cameron Kirwan, Katie Trail, Emma Lane, Margaret Pfeiffer, Drew Landy, Zoe Bole, Holly Harms and Peyton McGuan are all graduating with Summa Cum Laude for grade point averages of 4.0 and higher.

Middle Park salutatorian Ella Wiser delivers the welcoming address at the Class of 2021’s graduation ceremony.
Eli Pace /

Another 19 students will graduate Magna Cum Laude and 10 leave with Cum Laude. Madeline Ruttenberg was named for top community service with 952 volunteer hours logged.

Six graduates — Ethan Ruttenberg, Alex Holinka, Gustavo Galaviz, Katie Trail, Cameron Kirwan and Robert Graham — have been signed to play college sports.

Middle Park senior Alex Holinka receives his diploma from Principal Cindy Rimmer on Saturday in Granby.
Eli Pace /

Another five students will serve their country. Dawson Grabner plans to join the US Army, James Craig and Nicholas Rojas are joining the US Navy and Cameron Freisen and Ben Opatril will go on to the US Marines.

Graduating senior Cameron Freisen stands as students who’ve chosen to enter the armed forces are recogzined at Middle Park’s graduation ceremony.
Eli Pace /

The Class of 2021, following a year like no other, walks away with newfound resiliency as well.

“I know a lot of people felt like a lot got taken away from them, but it’s a good way to grow,” Ruiz said. “I feel like everybody got a lot of experience in growing in themselves because we made the most of what we could.”

Ben Opatril, center, rides a trailer with his classmates during a graduation day parade throughout Granby.
Eli Pace /
Middle Park seniors celebrate during the graduation day parade in Granby.
Eli Pace /

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