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AHS Alumni Lily Oswald’s Fall Fundraiser Speech



“I was asked to speak at tonight’s event and I’m so honored to be here with you all and say a few words about why we’re all here-Animas High School. For those of you wondering who I am- My name is Lily Oswald and I was a member of the first graduating class of Animas back in 2013. Like I said, we’re all here tonight because we’re passionate about how far Animas has come and where it’s going  or becoming involved with Animas to begin with, which is pretty amazing. When I was in middle school, I remember going to these makeshift meetings in the living rooms of people who saw the potential for Animas High School in Durango.  Now, you don’t have to make too many real decisions when you’re 12 or 13 years old, but when the time came for me to think about which high school I wanted to go to– and I was lucky enough to have a choice- I chose Animas.

Despite the fact that there was no location secured yet for the actual school.

Despite the fact that many of my good friends were choosing to go to Durango High School.

Despite the fact that the founders of AHS were still trying to wrangle in enough teachers and students crazy enough to take a leap of faith with the idea of Animas.

But they did.

Some of those original faculty and staff that I had have evolved with Animas over the years and are still there today, and some are with us here tonight.  And despite what you might think about small charter school start-ups in strip malls, they weren’t just in it for the money.

Animas’s mission of project based learning was what drew me in years ago and what continues to set the school, the students, the faculty, and the impact Animas has on the community apart from other public schools.

Choosing to go to Animas High School in no small way paved the path for me to be here tonight and allowed me to realize my goals and values, build and maintain real friendships, have an education that not a lot of people ever have the option to experience; and to really come into my own as a person and as a member of this community. It’s this skillset that I took with me throughout high school, college as a Planning, Public Policy and Management major, and today in my job as a City Planning Consultant in Durango.

Animas is turning heads for a reason, and I’m so honored to have been a part of the class of 48 students that laid some of the bricks for present and future classes, and to continue to be a part of Animas tonight in some small way.

One of the strongest things that Animas instills in its students is the ability to build genuine relationships with people and collaboratively work towards solutions; instead of shuddering away from the idea of group projects or community involvement that so often is the case with high schoolers and college students– and beyond. It’s this skill that helped me countless times throughout high school, college, different work environments from backpack guiding to working for the City Manager, and connections I made to be able to effectively communicate with people.

In 2017 I don’t think that’s any small thing.  However, I don’t think I’m an exceptional case for Animas High. I think AHS does a fantastic job of not letting anyone fall through the woodwork, to allow students to individually rise to their own heights; and be able to mold a curriculum around projects and creativity and collaboration, all the while preparing students for real world scenarios and interactions that they’ll encounter.

I’ve found that in this day and age, so much of education and jobs come from direct and confident communication, which I undoubtedly believe I gained from my experience with Animas (and the seemingly endless presentations of learning and exhibitions we had to do).

Animas has changed remarkably since I was a student in the strip mall location. Where there were literally stairways to nowhere, x-rays mounted on the walls from the dentist office that was there before, and the classrooms downstairs were garages that we had to put duct tape over the switch on the wall or else our classroom walls would go up. And each year, naturally, the culture of the school evolves- but of course maintains an integrity that’s uniquely Animas High Schools. Although Animas has changed, it remains to be an ongoing asset to the community and changes the futures of students day in and day out.

Animas has always been resourceful and strong but it’s made stronger and successful with the help and with the generous investments and donations that people have and continue to make. Education is an investment. In what? In who? It’s an investment in the future, and that’s everyone here, not just the upcoming classes of Animas High School. Everyone here tonight has been through some form of education that their community invested in and thats exactly what we need to continue to do. By investing in Animas and their mission, we all benefit as individuals and as a collective community.

I invite you all to open your minds and open your wallets here tonight to support the future of education that’s truly changing Durango and other communities around the world.

As Animas always says, “together we are accomplishing great things”

Thank you so much. “

-AHS Alumni, Lily Oswald