Achieving a 4.0 grade point average is a milestone for any student, but it was especially significant for Erica Zamora.
Zamora explained just how meaningful scoring a perfect GPA was during Endeavor Academy's winter graduation ceremony held on Dec. 21 at the CU South Campus in Lone Tree. It was her sophomore year at Endeavor Academy; she'd enrolled in the school after facing significant challenges her freshman year. Before arriving at Endeavor, she'd harbored serious doubts about her academic future.
"I went through situations I never thought I'd face. I made choices I never thought I'd make," Zamora explained, adding that her acceptance into Endeavor represented a turning point. "I earned a 4.0, and I was proud of myself again. I had never been so proud of myself."
Like the other 41 Endeavor students who reported to the CU South facility on Dec. 21, Zamora defied the odds. She joined a group who, as Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Scott Siegfried put it, had shown "resiliency, grit and perseverance" in successfully pursuing their high school diplomas. The 42 students who donned their caps and gowns for the winter ceremony reveled in their achievements with friends and family during the ceremony, which came three years after the Endeavor Academy celebrated its first graduating class as an official high school in the Cherry Creek School District.
The spirit of encouragement has always been part of the central mission at Endeavor, a facility that offers an alternative path for students from across the district who have been unsuccessful in the traditional high school environment. With an emphasis on re-engagement, individualized support and shared responsibility, the staff at Endeavor seeks to establish a sense of belonging for students who feel as if they've been left behind.
Judging from the beaming smiles on the faces of the graduates who filled the front row at the ceremony on Dec. 21, those efforts paid off. Keynote student speakers spoke of the value of the school in offering a viable path to a successful future.
"I've created bonds at Endeavor that I will remember for the rest of my life," said Nathaniel Welt, a graduating senior who enrolled at Endeavor when he was in seventh grade. "Each and every student here has faced trials and tribulations … Let's use these experiences. Our future success will be the greatest 'thank you' we can give to this amazing school and staff."
Acting Endeavor Principal Caroll Duran was careful to point out that the cohort of graduating seniors had already given back to the teachers, administrators and staff members who'd worked hard to help them navigate their own individual pathways to success. The graduation ceremony was a testament to their hard work, their commitment and their dedication.
"You have already proven yourself," Duran said. "It has been an honor serving you."
Even so, she offered words of wisdom for the graduates' next steps – the college courses, the journey on the road to a professional career, the entry into military service.
"Be careful, be vulnerable, be fearless," Duran advised. "Continue to learn and continue to evolve."
Siegfried, too, spoke of challenges to come. He noted that "the world won't stop testing you," but he was also quick to express his confidence in the group's ability to meet those challenges head-on. He spoke of the endless possibilities of the future, and he noted that of all the graduation ceremonies he's attended during his time in the Cherry Creek School District, the Endeavor celebrations always tend to have a special significance.
"The piece of paper you receive today represents a journey. I know that there is a deeper meaning to today's celebration," Siegfried said. "Know in your heart that this represents something extraordinary. Go out there and do something, create something.
"Do it for you," he added.