DENVER — It was a special day for hundreds of students at Metropolitan State University of Denver Friday as they walked across the graduation stage at the Denver Coliseum.
Among the graduates was Easton Gallegos, who survived the 2019 STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch.
Gallegos said the journey to get to this point wasn't easy.
"I struggled a lot. I was not able to go back into an in-person classroom," he told Denver7.
Gallegos was in class on May 7, 2019, when two students opened fire.
"We, of course, were hearing noises, the sounds — the shots," Gallegos recalled. "I was in the graduating class that year."
His friend and classmate, 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, died a hero as he rushed one of the two shooters, saving countless lives that day.
"He was always a friendly face. He would always stop and say hi. He knew everyone's name. It was crushing. I went into my room and I did not come out for a long time," Gallegos said. "Knowing the type of people who were at STEM in the first place, it didn't surprise me that there were so many people who are willing to stand up."
Gallegos said the tragedy pushed him to pursue a career in criminology and cybersecurity.
"It wasn't a goal that I really was ready to work towards, at least at the level I did now until [Kendrick] passed. Because by that point, I felt like I had something I had to live up for," he said. "I want to be able to research crime and criminology, and to be able to work with independent organizations, lawmakers, policymakers, anyone who will listen to try to make sure something like this never happens."
As far as what comes next, Gallegos has a job lined up in cybersecurity but plans to also pursue his master's degree and PhD.
"I'm happy that I finally got to this point. But there's a lot more to go," he added.