While Canyon Ridge students and staff appreciated the hospitality of former host Hesperia High School, clearly the Ravens are thrilled to finally be home.

Sporting Hawaiian shirts, straw hats and floral leis, the school celebrated the grand opening of its own campus at the former Summit Elementary site by welcoming guests with an enthusiastic "Aloha!"

Surrounded by art created by students of acclaimed instructor Arlene Jurkiewicz, guests were treated to dance routines with lively music. But the centerpiece of last Wednesday's welcoming ceremony were the words of gratitude and hope from students and staff.

"We have great kids here," said school principal Bill Pittsford. "Some are so talented. They have big hearts and bright minds."

Since attending Canyon Ridge, which is one of Hesperia Unified School District's alternative education programs, student Roni Hanke has bloomed.

"I look forward to Monday mornings and new challenges," said Roni, who also serves as a photography intern at the school district's photo department.

In such a small setting, the girl, who sported colorfully spiked hair, has connected with a diverse mix of students.
"You become friends," Roni said. "It's really become my second family."

Student Octavio Cardona talked about dropping out of school after ninth grade but getting back on track to graduate after coming to Canyon Ridge.

Student Sparkles Davis, who Pittsford said could be a valedictorian candidate at almost any high school, said the good spirit of the student body is irrepressible.

"You can't but love everyone," Sparkles said.

Canyon Ridge offers students who don't seem to fit at one of Hesperia's larger campus a special place to grow and learn, according to the principal.

"Here in a small setting our kids can shine and graduate from high school."

The principal introduced his teaching staff to an appreciative audience.

Pittsford also thanked parents and students and introduced attending dignitaries: school board members Robert Kirk, Lee Rogers, Helen Rogers and Hardy Black, district staff members Mark McKinney, Jovy Yankaskas, George Landon, and Arlene Gluck and Mike Smith from the district's alternative education department.

The principal also introduced new school police chief Mike Graham and thanked his mentor Mr. Schnebeck from Hesperia High. He also credited Mission Crest Principal Michelle Murphy and her staff for cleaning the rooms before moving out of the campus, which Mission Crest used until the recent opening of its campus down the street from Canyon Ridge.

Donald Ervin, the school's first graduate, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Summit Leadership Academy Color Guard, with junior Ashley Evans serving as squad leader, presented the colors.

The Raven Steppers performed followed by a salsa by students Alfonso Juarez and Rebecca Martinez. Food was provided by Julie Calderon and the staff, Ken Cross and Alfred Flores.

Later, Canyon Ridge challenged "our great neighbor the Summit Leadership Academy" to a volleyball match.

"One of the kids we touch might change the world," Pittsford said. "You just don't know. You just never know the life you may touch."