With perseverance, help from friends, 146 receive Rifle diplomas

A journey that began with a homeless 15-year-old knocking on a Good Samaritan’s door ended with Josh Candow gripping a Rifle High School diploma in his hands Saturday.

Candow was one of 146 to graduate. Among those recognized were Valedictorian Kellan Johnson and Salutatorian Taylor Walters.

Candow also was honored this month with the school’s most improved senior award, a reminder of how far he had come since arriving at Melissa Collett’s doorstep.

Candow has never met his father, and difficulties with his mother led to his seeking out the assistance of Collett. The two knew each other when he once attended her child-care facility, but hadn’t seen each other for years when he had nowhere else to go and turned to her for help.

“She kind of saved me,” Candow said.

Eventually, Collett became his legal guardian and helped him turn things around in school, after he missed a lot of classes his freshman year.

Collett said one thing she required of him was to go to class, and he attended summer school and took online courses for seven classes he had to make up.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to graduate high school, so it’s kind of a big thing for me. I guess it still hasn’t hit me completely,” Candow said.

He said much of the credit goes to Collett for helping him get on the right track, and to teachers and friends who supported him along the way.

Candow’s experience meshes well with the message of Rifle social studies teacher Jonathan Rice, who said in his prepared graduation address to students that “the greatest thing that you can do coming out of high school is to be able to use the skills that you have developed through your gifts to create and sustain relationships.” 

Johnson’s own message to his fellow graduates was that “when you look at the future, embrace it, celebrate what you will become and never give up. Perseverance and hard work can carry you through life.”

Drawing on the relationships built with friends and supporters also never hurts, as Candow can attest.

“There’s no way I could have done it without any of them. This graduation means the world to me,” he said.


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