Siblings stick together to the end

Jesse Fortenberry hefts his sister Taniesha into the air in a spontaneous moment of playfulness outside the family barn east of Whitewater.

The only children of Brooke and Chris Fortenberry are almost two years apart — 1 year, 11 months and two weeks to be exact — but they graduate together today from Fruita Monument High School.

At 18, Jesse Fortenberry, a professional bull rider, took a year off to follow his rodeo dreams.

But remorse set in after watching his class graduate without him, and he spent this past school year earning enough credits to graduate. He squeezed in study while traveling to rodeos around the region.

Upon learning of her brother’s plan, Taniesha Fortenberry, 16, who should have graduated next year, decided to step it up a notch.

“We talked about it, and I said ‘I can get my diploma this year,’ ” she said.

To do that, Fortenberry took a couple online courses in addition to her schoolwork.

She and her brother plan to walk together today when they receive their diplomas.

“Just about wherever we go, it’s the both of us,” Taniesha said. “And if we go anywhere alone, people wonder about us.”

Jesse Fortenberry said he will continue with bull riding after graduation. His sister, who also competes in rodeos, will head to Mesa State College at least for a year. She said she eventually she wants to be a veterinarian.

During a recent barrel-racing event, Taniesha Fortenberry took second place, while her brother placed first. Fortenberry said it’s fun to hang out with his sister because she tries to keep up with him, whether it’s riding motorcycles or horses.

“She always tries, but she doesn’t always succeed,” he said, provoking a playful sneer from Taniesha.

The family lives in Whitewater, but because they started school in the Fruita area, where they grew up, brother and sister wanted to continue on with beloved classmates.

Also, Fruita is the only District 51 high school with a vocational agriculture program, something the siblings couldn’t live without.

Teacher Ryan Hudson was instrumental in nurturing their development and sometimes allowing the two to get caught up on schoolwork in order to graduate.

“He always made sure our grades came first,” Jesse Fortenberry said of Hudson.


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