STEM School Seniors Celebrate Kendrick Castillo As They Graduate

Seniors from STEM School Highlands Ranch, where a student was killed trying to stop a shooting nearly two weeks ago, graduated Monday.

The commencement ceremony was held at the Denver Broncos’ Dove Valley training facility and honored 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who was fatally shot when he and two classmates tackled one of the two gunmen May 7. The shooting came during the last week of classes for Castillo and his fellow seniors.

Salutatorian Rooya Rahin said that it has “been a hard couple of weeks for all of us. But these difficult days have only reinforced that while our school may not be invincible and that we are not invincible, we are as strong or even stronger than we had ever believed.”

Valedictorian Emma Goodwill said that a lot was taken from the class of 2019 in the shooting — their sense of safety and their friend and fellow senior.

“It was an attack on so many things, but it was also an attack on this common ideological foundation that was fundamentally the center of our school: mutual respect for our peers’ individuality. A love for each student’s personal and particular nature,” she said. “However, Kendrick’s personal nature was not shaken. He continued to love and to protect just as he had. Kendrick died as he lived.”

Goodwill asked her classmates to “love so fully and fundamentally like Kendrick,” who she described as a “gracious, kind, funny and genuinely joyful kid.”

“Kendrick’s identity does not lie in the fact that he died protecting our school and our classmates, but rather that it was so fundamentally him to love that much,” she said.

Castillo and classmates Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones were credited with helping minimize the bloodshed by charging at one of the suspects in a classroom.

According to Bialy, Castillo sprang into action against the shooter “and immediately was on top of him with complete disregard for his own safety.” Jones, 18, said he was shot twice in the leg before Bialy was able to take the attacker’s gun.

The first diploma handed out was Castillo’s. His best friend picked it up.

Two students, ages 18 and 16, were arrested at the school and face dozens of charges, including murder, attempted murder, arson and theft.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Rooya Rahin's last name. We regret the error.