“Wheat Ridge High School is a special place.” These are the words I heard over and over again during my first month as principal on The Farm. Students, parents, staff, alumni and community members all said the same thing. To be honest, I was hesitant to believe a place could be so special. I mean, how do you quantify “special”? As I complete my fifth and final year at Wheat Ridge High, I can tell you that I haven’t found the formula that proves special, but I know beyond a doubt that it is.
Looking back on the past five years it is hard to see around COVID and the impact it had on the Wheat Ridge High School community. I know COVID and the various responses to it are a hot-button topic, so I will not dive in here. I only mention it to highlight the strong resolve of both our students and staff, who always kept learning at the forefront of what we did. The innovation and pure willpower I saw from so many fills me with pride whenever I think of it. The Farm got through all of that TOGETHER. The resolve that students showed to get across the finish line is a life skill that will serve them well in all their future endeavors.
As Wheat Ridge High School looks to the future, it has a strong foundation to build upon. As some of you read that sentence, images of our highly successful STEM and Career Explore programs may come to mind. For others, you may think of our strong athletic tradition that continues with what is, in my opinion, the best core coaching staff in the state. You are right to think of those amazing things. However, when I think of the future of Wheat Ridge High School, I think of the innovation that is occuring daily with our Algebra 1 teachers, who inspire reluctant students every day to push themselves. I think of recently added science classes that have evolved to meet the particular interests and needs of our students such as Astronomy, Oceanography and a slate of classes geared to urban farming. These are just a few examples of how the dedicated Wheat Ridge staff evolves consistently to meet the needs of their students and this is where the true strength of this school lies.
To summarize, Wheat Ridge High School IS a special place. I am grateful for the last five years I was a part of it. I am excited for my next opportunity, but wherever my career path continues to take me, I will always be proud to be a small part of the Farmer tradition. Once a Farmer always a Farmer!
Publisher’s note: Josh Cooley will be returning to Aurora to spend the next year building a new P-8 school from the ground up, brick and mortar as well as staffing. Cooley helped to reverse the flow of students leaving Wheat Ridge for other schools and promoted the GT program as well as postsecondary work experience pathways. Thank you for all your hard work and supporting those that needed a little extra help. You will be missed.