GOLDEN, Colo. — High school graduation is a day that feels so far away. Then, all of the sudden, the day has come. On Friday, Destinations Career Academy of Colorado had a high school graduation for 79 of their students.
"It's a culmination of 13 years of memories, of choices and decisions, that students make to get them here. And to really power their way beyond graduation," said Teri Cady, head of school for Destinations Career Academy of Colorado.
Cady said Destinations Career Academy of Colorado is a public school serving students across Colorado. In total, there are around 700 students in both middle and high schools, who primarily attend virtual classes. However, in-person learning is offered along with hybrid models. Along with standard academic classes, Destinations Career Academy of Colorado has a full career and technical program.
“We have athletes who come here who want some flexibility in their education. We have students who have been home-schooled their whole life who come here that want a little more structure rather than homeschool. We have students who come here who maybe are physically disabled," Cady said. "We are a fit for all students, truly.”
One of those students is Marianne Archuleta's son, Daimon Oswalt, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
“As a kid, he was always happy, even though he couldn't run and play with the other kids," Archuleta said. “He accepted his lot in life when he had a double hip surgery when he was five, and was in a cast and was extremely painful. And he still kept a very positive mental attitude about it.”
Archuleta said the day before Oswalt's graduation, the family learned the stage was not ADA compliant. The morning of the ceremony, those with Destinations Career Academy of Colorado found a ramp to bypass the stairs leading to the stage.
“The school came together and they made it happen. And it made it for me, and I hope for Daimon, an amazing experience," Archuleta said after the ceremony. “He has kept me young. He has given me purpose. He has blessed my life in so many ways. I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for him.”
Oswalt is heading to Minnesota in the fall for college and plans on studying history. He hopes to become a history teacher one day.
“Growing up, there's a lot of things that people try and prevent you from doing. So, graduating high school is big for me. And I'm going to college after this. So, that's another big step for showing people that people with disabilities are just like everybody else," Oswalt said.
For Oswalt, crossing the stage with his classmates meant everything.
“It means to be included — not seen as just my wheelchair, but seen as the person inside the chair," he said.