Steamboat Mountain School graduates a class with diverse interests

Kit Geary and Eli Pace
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Maeve Tuffy accepts her diploma after being introduced by teacher Cody Heartz at the Steamboat Mountain School graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Kit Geary/Steamboat Pilot & Today Maeve

Steamboat Mountain School graduated a class of 17 at its mountain campus on Sunday. 

“Each of the 17 of you has shined at various points during the year, and each has demonstrated the ability to drive their classmates to pick up their peers who have lagged, to be compassionate, inquisitive and conclusive,” said Samantha Coyne Donnel, head of school, during the ceremony. “Class of 2023, your strong convictions, independence and adventurous spirit lift up the entire upper school community.” 

Graduates listen to speakers at the Steamboat Mountain School graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Kit Geary/ Steamboat Pilot & Today

In addition to doling out awards and diplomas, Steamboat Mountain School brought back 2003 graduate EJ Oppenheimer, who spoke to how his experience at the school gave him the foundation to do the work he does today.  Oppenheimer went on to share how the global mindset the school provided him with led him to start a nonprofit organization, The Valley Foundation, with his sister ​that focuses on regenerating and conserving natural ecosystems through regenerative agriculture and other conservation methods. 

He recalled one of his most eye-opening trips — traveling with the school to Vietnam — and how he continues to learn by traveling to different parts of the world for his career, which focuses largely on land conversation and food security.  

At the ceremony, each student received a heartfelt introduction from a staff member before walking on stage to accept his/her diploma.  

Donnel spoke to how the senior capstone presentations that were given the day before reflected their broad range of interests and pursuits. Students covered a myriad of subjects including: sustainable fly tying practices, astrology, the economics of U.S. ski racing, empowering students with dyslexia, approaches to marathon running, and more. 

Aidan Kerrigan smiles at the crowd after recieving her diploma.
Kit Geary:Steamboat Pilot & Today

For his capstone project, Boone Yoshida brought insight into the life of a veterinarian, talking about some of the common cases that vets handle, as well as what is expected of their work schedules and day-to-day lives.

To pull the project off, Yoshida had to produce a research paper, shadow and intern with local vets, and ask questions to better understand the profession, and he prepared the slide show for Saturday’s presentation.

Boone Yoshida and Charlie Welch laugh after Welch’s speech.
Kit Geary/ Steamboat Pilot & Today

After he was done presenting, Yoshida noted that his father is a veterinarian in Kentucky, so the graduating senior already had a decent amount of knowledge for his project beforehand.

However, he said the experience he picked up working with the vets in Steamboat was “a whole different playing field” as he was able to watch surgery performed on a dog’s leg, as well as helping to perform a C-section on a cow.

“I have a passion,” Yoshida said. “I’ve always been curious. I’ve always been interested. I just wanted to look more into it.”

Yoshida plans to attend Colorado State University this fall to study animal science on a pre-veterinary track. He said graduation is somewhat bittersweet for him, and he’s experiencing many different emotions as he prepares for the next step.

“There’s a lot — curious, nervous, excited, a little scared,” he said. “It’s a new chapter. I’m ending this old one, and I’m going to miss it a lot.”

Down the hall at Steamboat Mountain School on Saturday, Lauren Haerter went over “The Importance of Music.” But what made the accomplished Alpine ski racer with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club pick this topic?

Jojo Anstine receives her diploma from Samantha Coyne Donnel at the Steamboat Mountain School graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Kit Geary/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“Just like my love for music,” she said. “I wanted to know why I’m so obsessed with music, and like chemically, what it does to my brain to make me feel the way it does when I’m ski racing or doing homework or just listening to music in the car.”

Nate Burns beams across stage after receiving his diploma.
Kit Geary/ Steamboat Pilot & Today

During her research, Haerter was surprised to learn that music can be helpful to people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and that different types of music affect people in many different ways “because it’s all based on the differences in people’s brains.”

Haerter said some of her happiest memories are associated with EDM, or electronic dance music, and that’s one reason she aspires to become a DJ.

At the request of the audience, Lauren Haerter mixes up some music at the end of her presentation on her senior capstone project, “The Importance of Music.”
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Like Yoshida, Haerter is also experiencing mixed emotions about graduation. She said she’s ready to close out her high school career, but she’s also sad to leave Steamboat and will miss her ski team and teachers.

Haerter will participate in ski camps in France this summer, and then will head to St. Lawrence University in New York to compete with the school’s ski team.

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