Boulder’s Temple Grandin School celebrated its largest graduating class since it opened 12 years ago, honoring six seniors at Thursday’s ceremony at Boulder JCC.
The small, private school serves neurodivergent middle and high school students, including students with autism. Graduation requirements include completing academic and social credits, an internship, volunteer hours and a college course taken on campus.
“It’s such a big and exciting and bittersweet moment,” said Temple Grandin board chairperson Christine Keaten.
Thursday’s ceremony included a year-end celebration of all the school’s 23 students, with staff members reading “The Important Thing” poem for each student that highlighted their strengths. For the seniors, the poems described them as passionate, capable, daring, a leader, ready and stealthy.
One drove from Fort Collins to attend the school, is kind and caring, and plans to enroll at Colorado State University. Another is an animal lover who completed an internship that included photographing wild horses. A third stood out for her smile and enthusiasm and is going on to play basketball in college.
Two seniors also received awards, including a leadership award given to Lily Huettel in recognition of her work organizing food drives, raising money for Rise Against Suicide and bringing student concerns to the morning meetings. Classmate Cecil Scarbrough received a new award, the “Lucky 7,” as the school’s longest attending student after enrolling seven years ago in middle school.
Along with student awards, the school honored three longtime employees plus Jen Wilger, the school’s executive director. Wilger, who has served as executive director since the school opened, received her own “Important Thing” poem and a standing ovation.
The graduation speaker was Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett, who has two neurodivergent children. He praised the school for its individualized support, saying students are accepted for who they are.
“You all are doing amazing things,” he said.
As to what he would tell his younger self, he said, he would suggest buying stock in Amazon and having confidence that his life “would work out.” He also told the graduates to find what they love and use their skills to make the world a better place.
“You have unique and important things that the world needs,” he said.
Temple Grandin co-founder David Hazen shared an “Important Thing” poem about the school itself, describing elements of the school that include a foam sword game, a weekly morning meeting, Friday night hangouts, a weekly time to explore interests and passions, and a practical skills class.
“The important thing about (Temple Grandin School) is everything,” he said.