CLASS OF 2020: Taos Academy

Taos Academy hopes for live ceremony in June

Posted 6/3/20

With 16 graduates this year, Vista Grande High School, at 213 Paseo del Cañón East in Taos, was holding out for a real-life graduation until the governor’s recent cautious mandates (May 15) about continuing social distancing. Instead the school hosted a drive-by graduation Friday (May 22) at the school.

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CLASS OF 2020: Taos Academy

Taos Academy hopes for live ceremony in June


The Taos Academy senior class, along with their parents, made the decision to postpone the original graduation date of May 15 until June 26 in hopes of having a live ceremony.

The school did mark the original date with a diploma conferment. The Student Advisory Council has decided to invite the class of 2020 to next year’s prom, which will include crowning of king and queen for the class
of 2020.

A diploma conferment was held virtually to acknowledge a graduation date for execution of completed transcripts. A live link was sent out to seniors and their families so they could join in and watch. The students will receive their actual diplomas on
June 26 at the live ceremony.

The future graduation will also include speeches from valedictorian Lauren McAllister, co-salutatorian speeches from Nalia Kast and Nadia Macdonald and “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be sung by Jimena Ballesteros.

In addition to the valedictorian and salutatorians, the following graduates will be recognized for their honors and awards:

Marion Balsamo – Daniel’s Fund Scholarship recipient, champion skier and rodeo, Honor Society

Anastacia Gonzalez – varsity athlete for multiple sports, community involvement

Jimena Ballesteros – EQ team president, Night of 1,000 Stars host, Governor’s STEM Challenge state champion, STEM research club, Blood Hero Cord recipient

Isaiah Sanchez – Big Brothers Big Sisters, EQ team, culinary arts, music, Blood Hero Cord recipient

Mikaela Romero – multiple varsity sports such as volleyball, basketball, track and cheer; Blood Hero Cord recipient, Honor Society

Aiden Macdonald – varsity soccer and theater, Honor Society

Sean Flory – varsity soccer and theater, Honor Society


Co-salutatorian shares her speech

Taos Academy’s mission is to promote academic excellence through specialized encouragement and support. Any achievements I have made are due to inspiration from my peers and teachers. I am so grateful for all the lessons I have learned from my high school years here and I know I will take them with me. Taos Academy cultivates an environment that enables teachers to build a curriculum that caters to student success and an expansion of our perspective. It all has been vital in shaping who I am.

I first want to acknowledge that we did not get to experience the second half of our last semester of senior year the way we had planned it. We didn’t get prom, a senior sunset, a senior prank or a last celebration together. Many people faced increased economic hardships and the fear of losing family members. There have been feelings of despair as a result. In response I want to appreciate all the memories we have been able to create over the years that I have previously taken for granted. While acknowledging all the times we could have had I want to go forward and cherish the memories we have yet to create.

Throughout the years, I have seen students take part in innovative school programs, events and community organizations. We have worked hard in STEM, live and online classes. Furthermore, our peers have worked diligently in jobs outside of school and with community organizations. Whatever our individual paths were, they have led us here and not one is more valuable than another. This uniqueness has created our community – whether we are getting together to break the dress code or setting up for school events. This, alongside our accomplishments, is what creates Taos Academy’s atmosphere.

We have been able to see such accomplishments due to the encouragement of our teachers. The curriculum you’ve built has allowed me to step outside of my own bubble and gain a better understanding of the world around us. Without Taos Academy staff we wouldn’t be graduating today so I’d like to take a moment to thank them for their hard work and integrity.

I want to recognize all students in the senior class. I hold value to a system that encourages education for every student equally for the sake of learning instead of one that encourages competition for the leading spot. In many ways Taos Academy has upheld the values of learning. That being said I want to recognize the important role every student plays in upholding the ecosystem of school. We wouldn’t be anything without every person who works to keep Taos Academy going whether that is behind the scenes keeping the school clean or on the front lines managing its function.

Thank you Taos Academy community for the years of experience and memories that allow me to be the person I am today, hopeful for tomorrow.

— By Nalia Kast, Taos Academy co-salutatorian

Class of 2020: Taos Academy Graduates:

Jimena Ballesteros
Marion Balsamo
Leela Blakeley
Elijah Cohn
Daniel Cordova
Juniper Cortopassi
Roland Danemann
Uma DeTullio
Sean Flory
Alejandro T. Gonzales
Anastacia Gonzalez
Nalia Kast
Mekaela Konz-Morlan
Aidan MacDonald
Nadia MacDonald
Zoe Mangum
Tomas May
Lauren McAllister
Donovan Medina
Toby Mondragon
Grayson Naylor
Meadow Nieto
Ximena Perez
Eden Ratigan
Kai Richardson
Ian Robbins
Mikaela Romero
Isaiah Sanchez
Jesus Tafoya
Cherise Trujillo
Helen Velasquez
Joshua Waltz
Timothy Wooldridge


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