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Alee Reed — Not just a fan but a published SciFi author; Angel Toribo — From a rough start to an IB diploma

Central Park Education News will publish profiles starting today (May 20) and May 27 of eight outstanding 2024 graduates of Northfield High School.  Profiles of Alee Reed and Angel Toribo follow an overview of the class of 2024.

Hundreds of parents, relatives and friends packed the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center Saturday afternoon (May 18) to celebrate Northfield High School’s class of 2024.

It is Northfield’s sixth and largest class with 376 seniors (number could change when final grades are recorded).

More than 134 of the graduates received International Baccalaureate Diplomas for completing the rigorous program. They were signified by white hoods draped on their gowns, with most of those also adorned with gold and white cords recognizing their achievement as National Honor Society and Cum Laude (academic honors) graduates.

The Class of 2024 Valedictorian is Ava Vasquez; the Salutatorian is Quin Tettero.

This year’s student speakers were Grant Thornham, Danea Sutton, Cassandra Ungemah, Kaden Montoya, Keegan Shouse, Nataly Ramos-Gutierrez and Stu Co. Students auditioned for the privilege of speaking.

Other designations among the graduates were 172 cum laude, 30 Seal of Biliteracy, two DPS Retired Employees Association scholarship winners Ava Vasquez and Quin Tettero ($10,000 scholarships, each renewable for an additional three years totaling a possible award of $40,000), and one Boettcher Scholar, Sammy Berman ($20,000 annually for four years with his college picking up the rest of the cost for tuition and fees.).

Unprecedented problems this year in the FAFSA process, the federal application that helps determine how much financial aid students qualify for, has delayed accurate tallies of what percentage of graduates applied and were accepted to what number of colleges, or the total of merit-based and other scholarships that were awarded.

For reference, in 2023, 89% of the class applied and 85% were accepted to 74 different colleges. Last year seniors received a total of $16.4 million in merit-based scholarships.

Graduation regalia and meanings:

Red & Yellow Cord: Asian American Pacific Islander Club

Cultural Cord: Arab American Heritage Club

Kente Cloth Stole: Black Student Alliance Club

Cultural Stole Club: La Raza

Lavender Cord: Gender Sexuality Alliance Club

Blue & White Cord: DECA

Maroon Cord: HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America)

Gold & Silver Cord: Seal of Biliteracy

Medal: Student Board of Education

Red & Gold Cord: Spanish National Honor Society

Gold & Navy Cord: International Thespian Society

Rainbow Stoles: National Art Honor Society

Gold Cord: National Honor Society

White Hood: IB Diploma Candidate

White Cord: Cum Laude

Alee Reed — Not just a fan but a published SciFi author

When Denver schools went virtual four years ago during the COVID pandemic, ninth graders at Northfield High mostly were stuck taking classes remotely from home.

It was a time when many students felt disconnected or fell behind.

NHS 2024 grad Alee Reed.

Not Alee Reed.

“Back in quarantine in 2020, I was bored in my room,” Alee recalls. “I had a lot of story ideas and characters that I wanted to write about, and I finally had the time to sit down and plan out a novel.”

She not only planned one, she wrote two science fiction novels that she has self-published on Amazon.

“After about a year of character building and plot development and world building,” she says, “I came out with two novels about a futuristic society that is trying to survive on a dying planet.”

The novels — “Dead World” and sequel “Forgotten Morals”— take place more than 100 years in the future when the world has devolved into a wasteland from climate catastrophes. Her protagonist Clio lives inside the walls of a colony ruled by a dictator until she is able to escape and “discover an entire world of people in the barren lands of what used to be America,” as the Amazon blurb describes the story. “Out there, she finds friends, enemies, and a few dark secrets she wished she’d never learned.”

Writing is Alee’s passion. She was one of only 19 high schoolers from across the nation chosen to attend a two-week writing seminar at the University of Iowa, which has one the nation’s top writing programs. Alee had such a great experience there that she will attend UI this fall, of course majoring in creative writing.

Career goals include writing and publishing, with favorites including science fiction, other fiction and even writing for video games.

Born and raised in Colorado, Alee lives with her parents and younger brother in Central Park. After a freshman year at home, she was eager to jump into all kinds of activities as a sophomore once regular schedules returned to NHS.

“I joined the Archery Club, the Gender Sexuality Alliance Club, the Women’s Alliance Club, the Thespian Troupe,” where she acted, sang and danced in school musicals and plays over three years.

The musicals “Ranked” and “Rock of Ages” were favorites, and the other plays included “Pride and Prejudice,” “Prom” and this year’s play, “Dracula.”

Alee also volunteered as a student ambassador, helping eighth and ninth graders with their transition to high school. Any advice to those students?

“You get out of this place what you put into it.”

That means get involved in extra curriculars, get to know your teachers, take advantage of opportunities at NHS – which is exactly what Alee has done.

Taking rigorous International Baccalaureate courses on the way to an IB Diploma also has helped Alee prepare for college-level work.

“I think it’s definitely helped me grow as a student and a learner, as much as I complain about it … I have worked hard, I’ve done everything by the book, by the rules, to this point, and I really want to be more spontaneous going forward.”

That means studying abroad while at Iowa, or possibly taking a gap year before college graduation.

“Like my parents, I really want to travel,” says Alee, who speaks Spanish and is learning German. “I really want to explore everything that this world has to offer.”

Angel Toribo — From a rough start to an IB diploma

For Angel Toribo, the distance from starting NHS as a freshman in 2020 to graduation this month is measured in a magnitude far bigger than four years.

NHS 2024 grad Angel Toribo.

“I’ve got to be honest, I had a very rocky start my freshman year,” Angel says. “It was during COVID. It was all online. In my first semester, I got two Ds in Engineering and French,” he says.

That first semester struggle, however, lit a fire under Angel that sparked not only an impressive academic recovery but also propelled him to achieve personal goals. His grades quickly improved by the second semester, and his GPA continued to rise throughout high school to the point that he enrolled in rigorous International Baccalaureate courses and on track to earn an IB diploma.

“It was important to me to continue my education at a higher level and go to college … I wanted to show what I am capable of.”

He was also capable of setting an ambitious personal goal. Through determination and discipline, he put himself on a strict diet and fitness regimen and lost 75 pounds in the past eight months.

“In my junior year when I was playing football, I was up to 280, and now I’ve been able to reach my goal weight of around 200 pounds.”

Angel was born and raised in Colorado and lives in Montbello with his brother and parents, who came to the United States from Mexico and became naturalized citizens. His father works for a metal fabrication company and his mother is in logistics for a pharmaceutical firm.

“My parents are work oriented,” he says, and passed down a strong work ethic to their children.

Northfield High offers about a third of its enrollment of nearly 2,100 to students outside the neighborhood attendance area. Angel is one of those students, and he chose NHS because its size creates opportunities for more activities, student organizations, internships and programs such as IB. At first, he felt out of place as a newcomer, with so many NHS students from the Central Park neighborhood gravitating to  cliques of friends that they grew up with.

Things got better over time. While the school is not as diverse as Montbello schools, he says NHS leaders organized multicultural events and programs to try to represent all student groups.

Besides IB, Angel has been a teacher’s assistant, acted in the school play “Dracula” and the musical “Rock of Ages,” and played football up until his senior year. Outside of school, he works as a Starbucks barista and will work this summer at his father’s company.

He has applied for eight scholarships to help pay for college and plans to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins in the fall.

“IB taught me to be a better writer, and that has helped with my applications.’’

He plans to major in computer science. He already has learned to write code and intends to go deeper into artificial intelligence and machine learning at CSU.

“Everything is heading to AI … I realize that nowadays a lot of people and companies don’t seem to care about where the technology is leading, like with Chat GPT or deep fakes on social media. So I think we need to care more about the ethical side of things.”

For example, developing skills in web security is a field that has long interested him.

“It’s kind of funny because when I was younger, I would hack on to video games (rather than buy them),” he remembers. “I realized, ‘wait a minute, I could make money doing this.’ That’s what jumpstarted my thinking about computer careers.”

(The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities gives grants to the Northfield High School International Baccalaureate program.)

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