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Vail graduates honor unsuspecting staff member

Posted at 5:20 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 20:34:49-04

The graduating senior class at Vail Academy and High School picked an unsuspecting and unexpected staff member to honor at graduation.

At the beginning of the year, the senior students sign a graduation robe as a pledge to graduate. At the end of the year, they pick a staff member to receive the robe as a sign of gratitude for their help motivating them to graduation. 

This year, the choice was difficult at first for the seniors, who all had different teachers they wanted to honor. 

"It was kind of like chaos trying to choose one person to recognize because everybody has their favorite person in their corner," said 2016 graduate Remington Knauer.

Then, someone suggested the school's custodian Carmen Santana and the decision was made.

"It was pretty unanimous. Everybody has been positively impacted by Ms. Carmen," said Remington. 

Since the school opened six years ago, Carmen is the only one to clean-up after the k-12 students during the day. She is constantly going, wiping up spills and sweeping up messes. 

"I do it because I like it, you know," said Carmen.

She may not do it for the recognition, but to the students, Carmen is much more than a custodian.

"We love Carmen. I don't think you could talk to a single person here on campus who doesn't know her by name," said 2016 graduate Courtney Barger. "You can always go and talk to her, you can always ask her for anything, she's always helpful."

The 2016 graduating class recognized Carmen's impact on their lives and decided to honor her with this year's graduation robe. 

"I never ever thought that that they even thought of me. Not even a little bit. It's just crazy, just crazy emotional," said Carmen.

Carmen says she just wants to the kids to succeed.

"For them to finish school and go on and have more success after high school," said Carmen. "I think it's so important for me...because I didn't finish school."

She does not yet know where she will display the robe permanently. For now, it is hanging in her house where she can look at it every day.

"It reminds me that the kids do love me," said Carmen.

It is also a reminder that even outside of the classroom, Carmen has taught the students what is really important in life.