Central grad leads way for family

Mario Matias-Mora leaves the stage at Stocker Stadium, diploma in hand, Monday during commencement exercises for 343 Central High School graduates. Matias-Mora, the first in his family to finish high school, graduated from a pre-engineering program, Project Leads the Way, that will be opened up to all District 51 students next school year.

Photos by DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Central High School Principal Jody Diers plants a kiss on Trenton Coleman after he received his diploma.

Karrick Johnson celebrates after the Central High School graduation ceremony at Stocker Stadium.

There were 101 Central High School students who walked Monday with college scholarship dollars in hand, accounting for than $2 million in financial aid.

Mario Matias-Mora, 17, aims to be counted in the same category one day.

For now, Matias-Mora, who completed classes in Central’s first-of-its kind pre-engineering program, is content to put dreams of a career in building and design on hold. He’ll earn a paycheck immediately by going to work with his father in western Colorado’s oil fields.

“I’d originally planned to go to college to get into architecture,” Matias-Mora said, adding family financial strains have forced him to prioritize paychecks over continued education. “I have two little brothers and I want them to have the same opportunities I did.”

On Monday, Matias-Mora became the first in his family to graduate high school.

He was among 343 Central High warriors who received diplomas Monday morning under sun-bathed skies at Stocker Stadium, 2012’s first high school graduation ceremony for School District 51. The class was down from 2011, when 374 students walked.

Central business teacher James Easton, who delivered the commencement address, urged graduates to “live, laugh, love and learn.”

“Love who you are and love what you do,” Easton said, a teacher at Central for six years, and formerly an insurance agent. Easton’s 10-minute speech drew repeated laughs from the overflow crowd.

“I wasn’t laughing as much,” Easton said of his old job. “Love what you do and you’ll be happier.”

Emmalene Beckstead, valedictorian who finished with a 4.23 grade-point average, urged classmates to remember the “way of the warrior,” a reference to the school’s mascot.

“Wherever life takes you, there will be somewhere uphill but I hope you’ll be a warrior,” Beckstead said.

Matias-Mora was among several Central graduates who took classes through the school’s Project Leads The Way program, a pre-engineering initiative offered exclusively at Central High. Starting next fall, the program hosted by Central will be expanded to all interested District 51 students regardless of where they attend high school, according to Ed Reid, a Central technology education teacher.

Leads the Way offers an intensive focus on math and science skills needed in various aspects of design work, aside from the hands-on construction of individual projects, Reid said. 

“A well-rounded student will have both of those elements,” he said.

Despite what Matias-Mora hopes will be a temporary interruption of his education, he said he won’t lose sight of his goal.

“I want to be working at an architecture firm and building new designs,” he said.


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