Last weekend the community honored its past as the old-timers gathered for Memorial Day weekend and reminisced about the old days. There was a polka Monday afternoon. This weekend the community will honor its present and potential future. Saturday is high school graduation for the Crested Butte Community School. There will be a school campout this weekend.
Thirty-one young members of the Crested Butte tribe will graduate Saturday morning and head off into the world. For some, that world is New York City, L.A. or America’s National Parks. For others it is San Diego, Boulder, Fort Collins or Gunnison. For a few, it is 100 days of skiing and washing dishes in a local restaurant. None are bad choices.
For me, this graduation is personal. The second of my two sons will walk the line and move on from the Crested Butte Community School. Both my kids have been fortunate to experience 12 years in a unique community hub of learning. Their school experience has left them better people and prepared for a larger world.
Great thanks go out to the teachers, administrators and staff of the CBCS. They all provide a unique and very personal experience for the children of our village. It is captured most intimately during the annual “senior dinner,” where the teachers roast and toast the students. It is perhaps one of the best evenings our kids can experience in a small-town education setting. They are lucky to have these moments. I hope the small-town ceremony does not go away as the classes get larger. Last week’s dinner really showed a group of kids with a strong bond but who turned out very different from each other. Cookie cutter is not a goal of the CBCS and that is a good thing.
As the community passes its children on to the next chapter, these 31 kids will discover that life doesn’t necessarily revolve around them and their tiny town with a cool ski hill 10 minutes from the school parking lot. They will be exposed to broader life—a more urban life—a broader world life—a more diverse life. And that too is good.
Now admittedly, cloistered in the small womb of a mountain town is a great way to raise a child. But to become an adult, they must reach out on their own and discover that not every community lets the children wander into the woods and rivers on their own. Not every kid has teachers that can huck cliffs and run mountain trails around the world. Not every town has one main street with a 15 mile-per-hour speed limit.
They might find that being tardy on a regular basis has real consequences and is more serious than a morning in study hall. They will understand that not every road trip to play a sports game takes at least three hours over mountain passes. They will spend time in meetings and hours in real traffic. The water will taste different and the sky will be a lighter blue. They might discover life isn’t always fair and not everyone sees their teachers having a good time at a Townie Takeover the day after finals. Life outside of here in “the real world” has some different rules and standards.
Some of our kids will embrace that difference and go with the flow. Others will drift while trying to find a familiar current.
But having grown up here, let us hope all of these children retain some of the enchantment of this valley no matter where their new lives take them. The Crested Butte “real world” is at the base of their core. I hope it continues to allow them to believe in the magic of the outdoors, in fairies and dancing and small-town values. I hope they understand that no matter where they end up, if they begin to feel real-world claustrophobic, they can find a special place to look up at the stars. And while seeing a probably dimmer night sky than they are used to at home, they can trust that their little town in the Rocky Mountains sits under the same constellations and will be there to welcome them back when they need to touch a special community that is closer to the heavens than most.
Congratulations to those children of the community as they move across the school stage Saturday morning and take a big step closer toward adulthood. And thank you to the teachers who helped get them there in their own unique way.