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Winter storm moves high school graduation ceremonies indoors

Walking across the stage at Red Rocks was a dream for students, but they didn't let weather ruin their special day.

LITTLETON, Colo. — Columbine High School seniors have been envisioning their graduation day at Red Rocks since they were freshmen. But, snow in late May got in the way of that. 

Instead, they received their diplomas indoors at the Denver Coliseum. 

Even though it wasn't what they envisioned, students said it's not about the location, but the journey that got them to this point. 

“It’ll be sunny. It’ll be the perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cold," said Columbine senior Charis Calkum. “I just assumed that it was going to be nice because that’s what I had pictured ever since I was a freshman.”

With her outfit picked out and graduation cap ready to go, Charis thought she'd be watching the sunset at Red Rocks on her graduation day. 

“We’re graduating and we’re getting our diplomas, so I don’t think it should matter about the place. I think it should be the fact that we’re getting it," she said. “I never thought it was going to come this quick and now it’s here so now I’m all excited about it."

This day came too quickly for Charis' mom, Michelle Calkum, too. 

“It’s sad to watch them grow up so quickly and there she is all grown up,” said Michelle. "It’s exciting. It’s an exciting, emotional day.”

When she looks back at her high school career, the first thing Charis thinks about is her Columbine community.

“I really like the unity and how close we all are together, you know? Like with soccer, if we’re losing a game, everyone is just, 'Let’s go. Let’s work harder. We’re all in this together.' It’s not just about one person and I think that comes from Mr. Christy," she said. "He’s a really good principal because he really does drill that into us.”

Columbine principal Scott Christy said he was disappointed things didn’t go as planned for his students' graduation.

“I was ready to have graduation in the snow," he said. "But, the decision was kind of made for us to not have it at Red Rocks and we had a pivot over to the Denver Coliseum."

Christy said his students haven't had a normal four years with a worldwide pandemic, the 20 year remembrance of the 1999 tragedy, and now snow ruining their graduation plans. 

“You know what, any other group I probably would’ve worried about in making that change," he said. "This group has just gone with it. They just rolled with it, whatever the challenge has been. They've just gone with, had a positive attitude and made it work."

It's a sentiment that resonates with another graduating senior and student body president, Emma Todd.

“I think the fact that our high school experience wasn’t normal is notable," she said. "But, I think that’s what makes it special. I think that’s what makes it different and when we look back on it, we’re not going to think about being home for half the time, or being in a lockdown. I think we’ll remember the special moments of being in this building whether that’s an assembly, or being here on Day of Service." 

She said they'll remember their graduation day for what it is, a culmination of their hard work and determination. 

"We’ll remember those special moments and the beauty of it being different and being challenging," said Emma. “Being involved in your own education, being involved within this community and this school I think is a big part of getting to where we are today."

Other Jefferson County high schools also had to move their graduation ceremonies indoors. 

Ralston High School moved their graduation to the Western Stock Show Center. Chatfield High School had their ceremony at the Denver Coliseum on Friday afternoon. 

On Saturday, Lakewood High School's ceremony will be in their gymnasium. Due to limited space and occupancy maximums, each family will receive four tickets to the ceremony and a parking pass. Children under 3 will not need a ticket to attend. 

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