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Homegrown Brilliance

These five people are doing amazing things with their lives, and they have one thing in common — they are all products of St. Vrain Valley Schools

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Do you ever wonder what happened to that classmate that stood out to you the most? The one you would ride the bus with, or the athlete you looked up to in high school? How about the one that you just knew would one day change the world? These five alumni have made a name for themselves – each with their own journey through the St. Vrain community.


Miles Rivera always dreamed of playing Division I sports. “I was offered to play football for the Air Force Academy – I knew I would be getting the best of both worlds,” shared Miles. “I would be attending an incredible school with an incredible opportunity to serve and to do things I most likely would not be able to experience in a different institution.”

Although he stopped playing football his freshman year, Miles said “What kept me in the Academy was the people I met and knowing the future impact I was going to have if I stayed in the Air Force.” Miles graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2018 and is now serving as a First Lieutenant, and will be promoted to Captain in May. His assignments include the 89th Airlift Wing, where the mission was to provide global Special Air Mission airlift, logistics, aerial port and communications for the President and Vice President of the United States, cabinet members, combatant commanders and other senior military and elected leaders as tasked by the White House, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Air Mobility Command.

Looking back at his time in high school, Miles remembers two teachers and a coach that had an impact on him. “Mr. Kenny and Ms. Gaddis were both my English teachers. They helped shape the way I write and communicate, and offered me awesome perspectives in life,” shared Miles. “My football coach, Coach Johnson mentored me and put me into positions to help me succeed.”

Reflecting on his time attending St. Vrain Valley Schools, Miles admits there is one thing he overlooked during his time in school, “it wasn’t until I was in the Academy when I really began to appreciate how hard teachers work, how much educators care about their students and how much they do for them – they want them to succeed and have a good life,” shared Miles. “Teachers are willing to innovate, to listen and mentor you, and not only teach you but they also give you life lessons.”

His advice to current students as they look at their future is to, “always maintain perspective and know that you will eventually have to be on your own – you will be your self-starter, your self-motivator, but always listen to your parents,’’ shared Miles. “Listen to your teacher’s advice instead of blowing it off, always take it for what it is but listen to it and maintain perspective.”

For Miles, his education in St. Vrain Valley Schools was a phenomenal experience, “I look back on it a lot, there were so many positive experiences, St. Vrain Valley Schools holds a special place in my heart and I always enjoy coming back and visiting.”


"I am incredibly thankful for everyone that I met, and had the opportunity to learn from at Olde Columbine High School. It absolutely changed my life,” shared Sam Zilli, who graduated in 2012. As Sam reflects on their time in high school, they recall how the community at Olde Columbine helped change “how I viewed myself and what I felt capable of – I felt supported, listened to, affirmed, and welcomed; I was excited to go to school and see these teachers and peers that I connected with, and for me that made all the difference.”

Sam received the prestigious honor of being named a 2020 Truman Scholar by former Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright, President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. They were one of 62 recipients from 55 colleges and universities across the country. Sam also served in the U.S. Navy for four years as a helicopter mechanic while working to improve reporting, response, and support for survivors of sexual violence in the military.

Recently, they completed their undergraduate degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston and are now applying to law schools. “I hope to complete my Juris Doctor and become an attorney for survivors of gender-based violence – I found that being a lawyer would be a career where my intellectual interests, my personal passion, and my mission statement would coalesce. Knowing that everyday I will get to wake up and do something that I enjoy and that helps people is a dream come true.”

Sam reflects on their time at Olde Columbine High School, and acknowledges that the single greatest thing Olde Columbine did for them was provide mentorship and a sense of community. “There were times when I was unsure of what I wanted to do, or how to handle things in my life, but knowing that there were mentors, peers, and resources available to help guide me, was very powerful.” Sam was an honor student, and was chosen to give a speech at graduation. “I’m thankful that my peers trusted me to be a representative for our graduating class, and I still think about graduation day as one of the most meaningful days of my life.”

There were so many teachers that had a great impact on Sam’s high school success. One specific teacher they remember greatly is their creative writing teacher, Donna Salemink. “I was making a documentary about Olde Columbine, and she mentored me through the largest artistic and academic endeavor I’d ever taken on. The fact that she went above and beyond to craft an assignment that was challenging, but aligned with my interests and that I was excited to do, was really incredible. I learned so much from that project, and her mentorship and investment in my learning meant the world to me.”

Sam’s advice to students is that they keep their minds, and options open. “Your path can be really non-linear, and it can take time to figure out what you want, and there’s a good chance that what you want will change over time. Ultimately if you try your best in every situation that you’re in then, you keep your options open for later, and your future self will thank you.”


"Education is something that I really value,” shared St. Vrain Valley Schools alum, Trenton Hoshiko. He has had the opportunity to collaborate on numerous projects with schools throughout the district. “It’s my way of giving back to the community and supporting the next generation of students, our future leaders,” said Trenton.

After graduating from Emerson College in Boston with degrees in Film Production and Cinematography, Trenton moved back to Longmont and founded Modern Icon Media in 2014. It focuses on commercial and creative video production and designing media in the Longmont, Boulder, and Denver areas. This year, Trenton added ad agency work to his company’s offerings for small businesses, which helps them build connections within the community. Modern Icon Media recently added CiniStream, an online art gallery for short, independent films around the world. “I learned from Silver Creek Leadership Academy that having a local and global mindset at the same time, reflects in my current life.”

Trenton was part of the first Silver Creek Leadership Academy class. “We helped them figure out what they could teach us and they were learning what we could do. Watching the curriculum change, and watching the program grow as the years went by – it was a wonderful experience to be part of that.” There are many teachers that Trenton is grateful for and contributed to his success, and today, he continues to have close relationships with them. “I’m thankful for the support I was able to get early on, their support was instrumental in my growth and having that framework to grow from within.”

The resources and the guidance he received from his teachers played a big role in him being able to attend a college that supported “what I wanted to do and gave me the confidence to do it. These teachers are not limiting themselves in helping people, they are still helping years later and that’s something very special to me.”

Being able to come back and work with schools, supporting these students, and being an SCLA mentor, has been incredibly fulfilling. “I hope to continue supporting these kids in every educational way possible, I want to be able to support education for future generations – these teachers helped me get to where I am today, and if I can be one percent as helpful to someone in the same ways, I know have made significant difference in their lives.”


For as long as she can remember, Brittany can recall many positive experiences she has had with her teachers. “I remember always having amazing teachers ever since elementary school and through high school. They provided me with the support that I needed and were there to help guide me. I can honestly say that because of them, I am a teacher today,” shares Brittany.

After getting her math degree, Brittany realized she was missing something. “I have always worked with kids, and I realized that was what I truly wanted to do. I wanted to have an impact on students just like my teachers had on me.” Brittany decided to go back to school and get her Masters Degree in Education and her teaching license. Today, Brittany teaches Geometry and AP Statistics at Mead High School.

“When I was thinking about where to teach, St. Vrain immediately came to mind, it’s such a great school district, and I felt it was important for me to give back to the community that helped and supported me to get to where I am today.” It is very rewarding for her when she’s giving a lesson, and all of a sudden “you see the light turn on for students when they learn something new. It’s important for me to help those that have gone through other things and give them the extra push. The extra love and support that school can provide, at the end of the day, that’s what I want for my students.”

Brittany says that being back in the school teaching with the same teachers that taught her, has been a great experience. “They have been so warm and welcoming. It wasn’t a hard transition from being one of their students to becoming their colleague.” Looking back, “I would still choose this career path.” One of her greatest mentors was her high school principal. “She always made sure that we’d become the best students that we could be, not only in the classroom but outside the classroom.”

At the end of the day, “I want my students to know that I care about them and I want them to succeed. I want my seniors to be resilient – if you fall down, get back up.” As far as students pursuing a teaching career, “make those connections early on with your current teachers, visit with them, and take the opportunity to shadow them – because becoming a teacher has been one of my greatest accomplishments.”


It is very special to build relationships with teachers throughout high school and maintain them after graduation. “I specifically remember how my French Teacher, Robin Zimperman, always made learning fun. She taught us a lot more about being good people and being kind to one another, and to this day, we still keep in touch,” shared Reed.

A product of St. Vrain Valley Schools, Reed recalls how his time in high school prepared him for his future. “I started to learn how to balance priorities. Academic achievement is a must, but I also began to learn that having fun, exercise, and family are important too.” He currently serves as the Chief of Service and EMS Medical Director in the Emergency Department at NYU.

For Reed, it was important to pick a service-oriented career where he would be able to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. Emergency medicine combines a number of different elements that are important to him, and that he enjoys. “Servant leadership, human connections, solving problems, science, and discovery – being able to positively impact the lives of others while fulfilling my own interests – has proved to be an awesome career choice.”

When he thinks about his time in high school, one word comes to mind, “growth.” With the many opportunities available in St. Vrain, he was able to fully prepare for his future and continue being successful even after graduation. “If I had a do-over and could repeat my experience at Longmont High School, I would graduate with more friends that are different from me. We all tend to gravitate toward people who live like us, speak like us, look like us, and think like us. By seeking and developing real relationships with people that are different, it not only strengthens individuals, but also it strengthens the community.”

His advice to students as they prepare for their future is to “dream big and work really hard. Set yourself long term goals, seek mentorship to help create a road map, start now – have tons of fun, and spend more time with your family.”