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Gazette Premium Content After tragedy, Mesa Ridge pulls together for last graduate

James Drew Updated: May 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This ceremony was private; the following account was provided by Widefield School District 3 Director of Communications James Drew. It has been edited for length and to conform to style.

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On May 21,  253 Mesa Ridge High School seniors received their diplomas in the Colorado Springs World Arena.

One did not.

That afternoon, Kim Haskins and her family were headed to lunch before graduation practice when their car was broadsided by an SUV that ran a red light at the interchange of Powers Boulevard onto Platte Avenue, according to police.

Kim and her mother, Mei Ling, were rushed to Memorial Hospital Central. Michael Haskins, Kim’s uncle, suffered moderate injuries. Kim’s father Steven, 53, died at the scene
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Tuesday morning, Mesa Ridge Principal Joe Garrett went to the hospital to visit Kim.
It’s his final of seven school years as principal at Mesa Ridge. On July 1, he will move become executive director of secondary student learning and achievement for the district.

But Garrett, 45, wasn’t about to leave Mesa Ridge with an “incomplete” —  the Class of 2012 had yet to be officially dismissed.

And his personal experiences — his father died when Garrett was 16 and his mother died two years ago — meant he understood Kim’s pain.

“We need to do something special at the school for you,” Garrett told Kim at the hospital.

“I’m sorry if I ruined our graduation Mr. Garrett,” Kim responded.

He was speechless, then managed, “You didn’t ruin anything.”

Later that day the staff at Mesa went to work preparing a graduation for one. A hurried, cursory ceremony wouldn’t do.

Garrett called Superintendent Joe Royer.

“Joe, I want to be there,” Joe Royer said, “and I want to invite our board of education.”

Garrett asked six staff members if they would speak at the ceremony. All agreed.

IN PICTURES: Mesa Ridge High School graduation

He asked Phil Olivas, Mesa’s music director, if he had a tape of the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance.” He did.

He asked Rick Wilson, counselor, if the flowers that adorned the World Arena stage were still fresh. They were.

As Garrett and his staff decorated the auditorium, vocal music instructor Scott Christiansen approached his principal and said, “I know you have a tape, but I think the music should be more personal. I’d like to play the piano for Kim’s ceremony.” He did.

“We’ll need someone to sing the National Anthem,” Garrett said.

Junior Rico Collins, a lineman on the Mesa Ridge football team, was nearby taking a final exam. He overheard the conversation.

“I’ll sing it,” he said. |

Thursday was the last day of school. After an early release, Joe held a noon staff meeting.

He asked the faculty and staff if they would attend the ceremony at 1:30. They did.

James Huerena, girls track coach at Mesa, asked his team members to attend. They did.

Chris Velasquez and Andre Gutierrez, board of education president and vice-president, respectively, and board member Charron Schoenberger were there, all in robes, as were superintendent Royer and Scott Campbell, executive director of secondary education.

The auditorium was filled with family, friends, classmates and staff. Many carried flowers. Everyone carried heavy hearts.

No one knew which emotions would surface. Will she be crying? Will she be in shock? Will she get through it? Will we get through it?

Kim is the only child of Steven Haskins, who worked as a civil contractor at Schriever Air Force Base, and Mei Ling Haskins, who is a homemaker.

She was born in Hong Kong and has dual citizenship. Her father and mother met while Steven was working overseas as a civilian contractor. She attended Venetucci Elementary from kindergarten through fifth grade, but in 2005 the family moved to Japan when Steven landed another contracting assignment. Kim attended a U.S. Department of Defense school in Japan through her sophomore year in high school. Her favorite teacher was Duane Daugherty, an American.

The Haskins family returned to Colorado Springs two years ago. Kim entered Mesa Ridge as a junior, and knew almost no one. But she thrived, making friends and earning high marks. She joined the track and swim teams.


She was not an “out-front” kid, but she has been described as a solid backbone with a peaceful inner strength.


She was excited to graduate and head off to study marketing at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. As the big day approached, she was also ecstatic about Friday, when she and her mother would fly to Japan to visit relatives.


On Thursday, Kim Haskins confidently and with a faithful smile led the faculty, administration and board of education down the aisle as Scott Christiansen played “Pomp and Circumstance.” The crowd stood and clapped. Mesa’s Navy Junior ROTC unit presented the colors. Rico Collins nailed the National Anthem.


Joe Garrett took a deep breath, steeled himself, and set the tone: “When we are done here today, the Class of 2012 will have graduated. Our graduation is not yet complete. This has been a very tough time for our Mesa Ridge family. Kimberly’s family has experienced a great tragedy, and Kimberly, you are part of our family. We want to make sure you are properly honored as you walk away from your time at Mesa Ridge High School.”

Rachael Jackson, class salutatorian, gave the same speech she gave Monday night.

Alyssa Magalong, senior class president, gave her speech. 

Then the six staff members spoke, lauding Kim.

Then, for the final time, Joe Garrett read the graduation proclamation: “Mesa Ridge High School Class of 2012, you have earned your high school diploma through your commitment, dedication and persistence. You have accomplished this with the support of your parents, teachers, family and community.”


Then he added, “Kimberly, may this be the first of many more accomplishments. What you are now exhibiting with grace in the face of something very difficult is truly inspiring. I have the utmost respect for you young lady.


“At this time it is truly an honor to certify to Mr. Chris Velasquez and the distinguished members of the school board of Widefield School District 3 that the members of the graduating class of 2012 have met the requirements and that the diploma should be awarded.
“Kimberly Anne Haskins.”


Kim received her diploma from Board President Chris Velasquez to a rousing standing ovation.


Then, Joe Garrett asked Alyssa and Rachael to stand on either side of their fellow graduate.


“We talk a lot in education about no child left behind. In the military, they talk about no soldier left behind. Today, this is about no graduate left behind. Graduates, move your tassels to the right.”


The auditorium was choked with emotion, but it wasn’t the emotion I had expected. There were smiles and tears and cheers. This wasn’t a funeral at all. We witnessed a remarkable young woman moving forward in her life. This was a happy day.


As this was written, Mei Ling Haskins remained at Memorial in an induced coma, but doctors are optimistic about her recovery. When Andrea Wurmstein, Kim’s counselor at Mesa, learned about the flight to Japan she called the airline, explained the situation, and was told, “I’m sorry, but they bought non-refundable tickets.”


Unacceptable. “Perhaps you didn’t hear what I just told you,” Wurmstein said, and repeated the story. A supervisor credited the Haskins’ account so they now have one year to make their trip.


A year or so ago, the Daugherty family left Japan and happened to land in Colorado Springs. Duane Daugherty, Kim’s favorite teacher in Japan, reconnected with the Haskins.


When Kim was discharged from the hospital, Barb and Duane Daugherty took her into their home and are caring for her. (Duane now serves soldiers who are dealing with crisis recovery and post-traumatic stress disorder.)

After the ceremony, Kim lingered in the foyer, celebrating and taking pictures with friends.

I walked up the aisle and greeted her. I must have had a tear in my eye, because when I hugged her she said something I will remember forever.


“Don’t worry about me. I’m a survivor.”

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