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2019 Gilpin valedictorian to attend Colorado School of Mines

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Building for the future with Chad Holmes

by Patty Unruh

“Work hard and keep a balance between having fun and studying. Place a precedence on education, because it sets you up for post-high school and for the rest of your life.”

Sage advice from Gilpin High School’s valedictorian for the Class of 2019, Chad Holmes. This reporter met recently with Chad and learned about his high school career, extra-curricular activities, and plans for the future.

Chad is the son of Kim and Craig Holmes and has a sister, Courtney, who is also a senior. Chad and Courtney were adopted from Russia at the same time and are sometimes mistaken for twins. However, Chad is 17 while Courtney is 18. A seven-year-old miniature schnauzer named Mitzi completes the family.

Gilpin County became Chad’s home when he was only a couple of months old. He has grown up here and attended Gilpin County schools.

Fun facts about Chad: his favorite food is a gyro, a Greek dish made with meat and often served as a wrap sandwich. He balances the meat with succulent steamed broccoli, but would not care for any squash with that.

The Holmes family is close. One of Chad’s best-loved traditions is going to Texas each year to visit his mom’s extended family at his grandma’s house.

“It’s small, so we’re all really cramped, but we’re all there together – the whole family, lots of cousins. I don’t particularly like Texas, though. It’s not like Colorado – there’s no scenery.”

A great read for Chad is The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, which his class read in AP (advanced placement) English last year. The award-winning story is set in an Italian villa at the end of World War II, and one of the main characters is the patient – a man who has been burned when his airplane crashed.

“The imagery and description are really good and enjoyable to read,” Chad affirms.

If he had the opportunity to talk with anyone in the world, Chad would interview Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer of SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company. Chad also notes that Musk is CEO of Tesla, Inc., a manufacturer of electric cars. Chad is intrigued by Musk’s vision for a high-speed transportation system called the Hyperloop and Musk’s concept to launch a manned mission to Mars.

“For now, the Mars project is just speculation,” Chad notes. If humans could live on Mars, Chad might want to visit, but he wouldn’t want to live there. So don’t look for a card from him postmarked “Mars” any time soon.

If he could be anyone besides himself, Chad would pick Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, who is a billionaire many times over.

“I would donate a lot of that money to causes, because he has a surplus, for sure,” is Chad’s reasoning. “You don’t need that much at all; it’s absurd, actually. I would try to help those who don’t have much opportunity, those who are down and out and students who want to go to college. There are people who deserve to go but can’t afford it, even with scholarships.”

Chad has kept busy this year with his Gilpin classes, including physics, AP calculus, and AP English. He has fun in AP calculus, with its small class size (four students) and individualized attention from teacher Rachel Van Hoose.

He has also been taking a full slate of courses for college credit through Red Rocks Community College: general psychology, Colorado history, technical writing, and astronomy.

“Technical writing is a prerequisite for the School of Mines. You learn how to write engineering reports and format them properly for business, being as concise as possible.”

Chad will be attending the Colorado School of Mines with a major in civil engineering. He is looking forward to a future in designing, analyzing, and building structures but is not sure whether he will end up in Colorado or go elsewhere.

“I’ll go wherever the job opportunities will take me.”

Chad is into athletics as well as academics. He has played basketball and baseball for all four of his high school years. He tried football during his freshman year but found the activity too pulverizing.

As for basketball, “I genuinely enjoy the sport and like to play with all my friends. But baseball is my favorite sport from Little League on up. Our coach, Tony Lorenz, has been like a father figure my whole life. It’s more relaxed than some of the higher-paced sports, but I enjoy the strategy. Hitting is the most fun part.”

When not studying or playing sports, he hangs out with friends, who seem to like his drive and the effort he exerts to finish any project he undertakes.

“We spend a lot of time at Coach Tony’s in the hot tub, talking baseball and having fun. Through baseball, I’ve also developed a passion for weight lifting in order to be better and stronger.”

Chad is also a new hire at the Gilpin Community Center, working as a lifeguard. “I haven’t needed to do any rescues yet, mostly just enforcing the rules. I hope to work there on breaks during college.”

Chad’s opinion of the school and the Gilpin community is positive. “As a whole, the school is good – the small size, the attention and care each teacher has for each student. As a community, the county is pretty involved from what I’ve seen. There are centralized places for people to connect, which is nice.”

As Chad talks about his birth history, he says, “I was born in Kursk and spent a couple of months there in an orphanage. Maybe at some point I’ll go back to Russia, but I don’t need to, because I consider my parents to be my parents, whether they are biological or not. I don’t know about my genetics, though, and there could be some medical conditions it would help to know about. It’s good I got out when I did because my health was not good and I probably would have died.”

He pauses for a grateful thought. “Every day here is a bonus compared to where I could be.”

Best of luck, Chad, for continued success!

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