CASTLE ROCK • Through tears, Mike Shallenberger, an engineering teacher at STEM School Highlands Ranch, laid graduation cords on Kendrick Castillo’s casket Wednesday at the front of Cherry Hills Community Church. The 18-year-old Castillo was to be the first recipient of the school’s Technology Student Association honor society, Shallenberger said.

Castillo, who was slain in the May 7 school shooting, also had been chosen to receive the engineering department’s annual award, which is given to “someone who not only loves engineering, but who will go out of their way to help others learn to love engineering,” Shallenberger said.

“We look for the people who are our go-to people,” he said. “We look for someone who will stay after class, who will go the extra mile and will put in the extra effort. We look for somebody who embodies the STEM character traits that we want to model and pass on to others.”

During the memorial, his father, teachers and classmates shared memories of the teenager, who is credited along with two other students with helping thwart the attack by charging at one of the shooters when he entered a classroom. Authorities said an armed security guard restrained the second shooter.

“It’s no secret to us that Kendrick did what he had to do,” said his father, John Castillo. “We’ve said that over and over. But you really have to understand who Kendrick was to understand why he had to do that. …

“He was compassionate. If you were walking down the street or something and you stumbled, he’d walk over to make sure you were OK. We all have the ability to be a little bit like Kendrick. It’s all inside of us.”

In a Facebook post announcing the service for Castillo, the church used his photo with John 15:13 from the Bible: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jordon Monk said his friendship with Castillo began their freshman year at STEM, when it became clear that Castillo “already knew everything he was supposed to learn that semester” in an engines class.

When the students were told to partner up, “I already knew who the best option was,” Monk said. “Our friendship started purely out of survival instincts — I wanted an A in that class, and I’d found the best way to do so.

“However, after one class period, I, like many others, knew there was something special about him. I had figured we’d get along just fine as lab partners, but I had no idea he’d have such a profound impact on my life.”

They went on to become best friends. When they weren’t in class, they were tinkering in Castillo’s backyard, Monk said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of stories that I could share, some of which I probably shouldn’t,” Monk said. “There’s thousands of one-liners we would use to no end, hundreds of dollars spent at Chick-fil-A and a couple of pairs of matching socks. But for now, all of that will remain unspoken and cherished as memories.”

In the spring of 2015, when Castillo was in eighth grade, his family decided he would attend high school at STEM.

“He was so excited to be attending a school that would continue to develop his love and passion for science and technology,” said Charlene Molis, former principal of Notre Dame Parish School, which Castillo attended from preschool through eighth grade.

“Kendrick had his faith as his foundation, he used his God-given talents to do good, he was service-minded and he treated others with love and respect,” she said. “Truly, he was the epitome of a young Christian man. ... Kendrick was an inspiration to everyone lucky enough to know him, and I even know, is still inspiring us with his acts of selfless courage.”

Dan DeMey, pastor of Shine Church in Castle Rock, said he knows many are grieving the loss of Castillo and asking, “Why?”

“My heart today and I know the heart of the family is that we would move away from the ‘Why?’ question, because to be quite honest with you, if you stay asking ‘Why?’ I don’t know if you truly ever get the answers that you need,” DeMey said.

“So I want to transition from ‘Why?’ — Why did this happen? Why Kendrick? Why do we have a family that is sitting here at a funeral for their son? In the improper order. It’s not the right order, and I totally understand that. But we need to move away from the ‘Why?’ question, and we move to the ‘What?’ What do we do now that this has happened? What do we do to help support this family? What relationships do we have in our lives that we need to get right? What are the things that we can do because this has taken place?”

John Castillo said he knows his son would want him “to have the strength to help everybody heal, because he knows there’s not anything I can do for him now other than reach out to his friends” to help comfort them. The community, along with his family, has a lot of healing to do, he said.

“We love our community — we are a family of three and the little dog, but you know, I feel the love of thousands,” Castillo said. “I’m going to have my moments that I’m going to be sad — I know my wife is — but because of our beautiful human being that we had in this world, we’re going to get through it. I think that he would want me to continue his charge of going out and meeting people and telling them who he was, and then also, being sure that as we walk through life, we’re becoming better people ourselves.”

To watch the service in full, visit livestream.com/accounts/817378/events/ 8680861/videos/191301731.

Ellie is a general assignment reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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