The ninth graduating class in the history of The ASK Academy received diplomas in the parking lot outside the Sundt Road school the morning of May 28.
Commencement had the usual pomp and circumstance, including the processional, with the school’s 38 seniors walking from a staging area near the middle school building to their seats near the stage.
After the color guard displayed the state and U.S. flags, Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull provided a welcome.
“You have to be successful. … You are our future,” he said.
Hull was followed by first-year Principal Edward Garcia’s greeting, reminding graduates, “You fought through all the ups and downs, and you earned it. You should never forget how tough you really are.”
Jeanne Forrester, the governing council chairwoman, commended students and administration for how “well-planned and executed” the pandemic-affected school year had been.
Salutatorian Chase Dunaway was next, wielding a paper bag and urging his fellow graduates to “be wise with what we put into the bag.” He encouraged not wasting potential, because it’s important to “get the most for when we check out,” so use the bag’s space wisely.
Valedictorian Taylor Katt, a National Merit scholarship recipient — the first in school history —was lauded by Garcia as “a writer, a thinker, a doer.”
An ASK Academy student since she was in seventh grade, Katt said the journey is in the destination, and, “So, often we get caught up in what we believe is the graduation.
“These small memories define our high school years,” she said. So in the future, “Remember those small events … (and) hold tight to those memories.”
ASK Academy Project Manager Christopher Castilleja, who teaches Spanish, world history and American history, gave the commencement address.
Castilleja said his first year at ASK was when Class of 2021 members were freshmen, and the past school year had been anything but traditional.
“Nothing about this year was normal. Nothing,” he said, with students learning online from home, which was how he observed, “Dude, some of you need to learn how to make a bed.”
Despite the virtual learning in 2020-21, he said, “ready or not, you will be scattered again. … You can overcome anything. … You are not alone.”
Middle school Principal Daniel Busse, whose contract was not renewed for the 2021-22 school year, teared up as he noted working at The ASK Academy had been “the greatest six years of my life as an educator.”