Graduation is an important milestone in each student's life journey.
2015 Graduation Pictures
New Hope Academy
Motivation and determination have driven Amber Griego to graduation day. She has been a HOPE at New Hope Academy student since the 6th grade and is proud to be setting an example for her two younger sisters, 12 and 16, who too are determined to earn a high school diploma.
Amber is also proud to be starting a new family tradition by being the first one in her family to attend college. She has earned a full Federal Pell Grant to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall where she plans to major in Psychology and live on campus. Her goal one day is to be a Clinical Psychologist as she finds it fascinating how everyone thinks differently and enjoys helping others work through their life challenges.
“My family is really proud I am going to college,” said Amber. “My mom has always inspired me with her independence and how she helps as much as she can.”
The HOPE academic team at New Hope Academy says Amber has been a bright spot in their Learning Center.
“She is a thoughtful, kind person and everyone likes her,” said Ms. Ashleigh Singh, Amber’s New Hope Academy Mentor. “Amber is very intelligent, and I feel she is already writing at a college level. I have always been impressed with her independence. She’s always had a plan for her life and is focused on meeting her goals.”
Amber has appreciated the smaller, one-on-one environment at HOPE’s NewHope Academy. She likes the fact that she was just not another student in class. Her instructors have taken the time to get to know her and this has made the environment welcoming.
Outside of the classroom, Amber enjoys reading. She particularly likes a fantasy writer, Patrick Rothfuss, for the way he organizes his ideas in his writing. In fact, her favorite school subject is English, particularly literacy. Her love of the written word is also why she says she liked the online HOPE curriculum.
“It made it easier to understand and take notes,” said Amber.
Amber and her classmates competed in the HOPE Science Expo this year and placed 2nd in the high school division.
“My best advice to others working towards graduation is work hard throughout high school so you don’t leave all the work until your senior year. Also apply for scholarships to college,” said Amber.
Brighton Leadership Academy
You can’t wipe the big smile off of Justin Chavez’s face. That’s because Justin is meeting a life goal by graduating from high school.
“I am the first one in my family to graduate. I know I need this for my future. It will make me a better person and help me build my life,” said Justin.
Justin hasn’t had the typical path to graduation. He spent much of his early years in foster care and even battled drug addiction and lived on the streets. Justin was eventually adopted by a family who served as great role models for him. And he had finally found a place where he could finish his high school education, HOPEat Brighton Leadership High Academy. However, just before the start of this school year, Justin was diagnosed with Ewing’s Soft Tissue Sarcoma Cancer.
In August, Justin had three tumors removed from his leg. He started visiting Children’s Hospital Colorado every week in September to receive chemotherapy or complete blood work. Justin will finish his treatments, and hopefully be cancer-free, for graduation day.
“All the odds have been against me, but I am overcoming it,” said Justin, who said he will have a large cheering section at graduation. “HOPE is giving me a chance at life, and I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
Justin is particularly thankful for the support the students and staff at HOPEOnline Learning Academy Co-Op have given to him this last year to get him to graduation. They work school assignments in and around his chemotherapy schedule. Additionally the families in his HOPE Learning Center have raised funds to help offset the costs of his treatments.
“It feels like family. I’ve never had support like this before,” commented Justin. “The name of this school, HOPE, really speaks for itself. They have truly given that to me, always encouraging me and telling me I can do it. I feel like I am living in a dream. This is amazing, and my heart will be forever endlessly thankful.”
Ms. Kim Vega, Manager, HOPE at Brighton Leadership Academy, is proud of Justin and the students her Learning Center serves.
“I’m honored to work with HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op. We are giving youth, no matter their struggles, a path to contribute to society in a positive way,” Ms. Vega said.
Justin’s favorite school subjects are science and history. He plans to become an x-ray technician after high school, and later, possibly, a pastor and/or a barber.
2014 Graduation Pictures
HOPE Online Learning Academy 2014 Graduation
Sarah Ann Armstrong, New Hope Academy, Greeley
Sarah Armstrong isn’t a typical teenager—she is a musician, a writer and a cancer survivor. It is often challenging for kids with critical illnesses to stay on track with their learning; undergoing treatment can mean long absences from the classroom. But Armstrong refused to let cancer stop her from graduating, working hard to complete her assignments whenever she had downtime in the hospital or at home. This level of dedication did not go unnoticed by her classmates at HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op’s New Hope Academy.
“The other students saw her hard work,” noted Ashleigh Singh, a mentor at New Hope Academy. “Their slogan became, ‘If Sarah can do it, then we can do it.’ It was really a testament to the positivity and perseverance that she brings to everything she does.”
While spending so much time in the hospital, Armstrong developed close relationships with the nursing staff. Now, she plans on joining the profession.
“I really like the idea of knowing that I will be able to help people,” she said. “Knowing someone was watching out for me meant so much to me when I was a patient.”
Compassion is one of Armstrong’s greatest qualities, according to Singh.
“She has a very caring and accepting personality,” Singh said. “She is completely unbiased and never judges. So many students look up to her and are happy to call her a friend. Her first thought is always, ‘how can I help?’”
Armstrong will begin the nursing program at Aims Community College in Fort Collins this fall. Staying close to home will allow Sarah to continue to play piano with her band, The Rhapsodistic, producing an eclectic mix of rock, rap and R&B. They are currently in the process of recording their third single.
Though she has accomplished so much on her own, Armstrong credits HOPE with her academic achievement.
“I used to struggle with learning,” she said. “Once I came to HOPE and started with the online curriculum, I noticed a change immediately. I was finally able to connect to my learning.”
The support Armstrong received from New Hope Academy also meant a great deal to her.
“I couldn’t say ‘thank you’ enough to my mentors and teachers—for supporting me, always caring and never giving up,” she said.
Tanya Isabelle-Louise Rael, Ambassador’s Academy, Colorado Springs
As soon as Tanya Rael enrolled at HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op, she knew that the smaller and more supportive environment was going to be a good fit. She had previously tried a remote online high school, and then a larger more traditional school. Neither worked well for her.
“When I was at my last school, there were so many students that I didn’t stand out,” Rael said. “I noticed an immediate change in myself when I came to HOPE. My friends and family have even commented that I seem more open and happy.”
It is that outgoing attitude that has won her so many friends at HOPE’s Ambassador’s Academy; of course her ability to make and decorate cakes doesn’t hurt either.
“Tanya made a beautiful cake for our end of year party last year,” recalled Shannel Shephard, a staff member at Ambassador’s Academy. “It was delicious.”
When Rael isn’t honing her baking skills, she is busy singing in front of the mirror, dreaming of the bright lights of Broadway. She plans to attend college to pursue a career in the Performing Arts.
Rael understands that it will take a lot of practice and dedication to make her goals a reality. Fortunately, she doesn’t shy away from hard work. In addition to attending school full-time, she holds two jobs. Showing maturity well beyond her years, she explained, “I am the oldest of six kids, so I like to help out as much as I can.”
Rael brings that “big sister” attitude with her to the classroom, making it a point to look out for the younger HOPE students at Ambassador’s. “She is always encouraging her classmates,” noted Shephard. “In spite of personal challenges, she always has a good attitude. She is very determined.”
Family is incredibly important to Rael, but that term isn’t reserved just for relatives.“I love every single teacher and mentor at Ambassador’s Academy,” she said. “They were all very helpful in getting me back on track academically and we consider each other family.”
Angel Manuel Castaneda, Maranatha Learning Center, Denver
When Angel Castaneda first came to HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op’s Maranatha Learning Center two years ago, he only spoke Spanish. While he had always been a good student at his previous schools in Mexico, the language barrier initially came across as reluctance.
“At first, I didn’t think he wanted to be here,” said Victoria Aguilar, the director of Maranatha Learning Center. “Once he became more acclimated, he began to get involved in everything. He really began to blossom, especially his interest in boxing.”
At Maranatha, students have the option to take a boxing class for a PE credit. For five hours every week, local professionals donate their time, not only to help get students in shape, but also to provide additional mentorship.
Castaneda thrived under the direction of the mentors, participating in his first Golden Gloves competition earlier this year. While he didn’t win his match, he said he still values the experience. And boxing is just one of Castaneda’s hobbies—he is also a talented musician. He showcased his skills at this year’s HOPE’s Got Talent competition, taking home an award for the “Most Promising” act of the show.
“The girls in the audience were swooning,” joked Michael Udlock, who served as emcee for the event. “He was just so comfortable in the spotlight. I think we will definitely be hearing about him in the future.”
Aguilar agreed, noting, “He can take any avenue he chooses, but I think he has the talent to do music professionally.”
While Castaneda has a passion for music and plans to continue playing, he is currently exploring other career fields. Now that he is bilingual, there are many more doors open to him. “There are a lot of opportunities to pursue translation in Mexico, so that is definitely a possibility,” he said.
Castaneda has already secured a scholarship from the Bridge Project, in large part because of his work helping neighborhood kids with their homework. The experience has also led Angel to consider a career in education. He is interested in teaching other English Language Learners, the ultimate homage to the staff who supported him during his time at HOPE.
“I am respectful and thankful to the staff at HOPE and Maranatha because they taught me the language and supported me as I transitioned,” he said.
2013 Featured Graduates
Branson School Online
Branson School Online
A few proud GOAL Academy graduates...
2012 Featured Graduates