Former STEM students gathering ‘words of encouragement’ for graduation

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HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — When the STEM School Highlands Ranch class of 2019 walks across the stage Monday afternoon, they’ll be missing a key member of their class.

Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was just days away from graduation when he was killed in the shooting at the school earlier this month.

The tragic event has set the stage for an emotional graduation on Monday.

“You’re anxious, you’re worried about tripping on stage,” says Madisen Purifoy-Frie. “But these seniors, have a little bit more of a weight.”

Purifoy-Frie and her friend Ammon Prieto graduated from STEM in 2017.

The two have spent the past week gathering words of encouragement from people emailing in to

They’ve been writing those letters on paper, and plan on handing them to the graduating seniors.

As of Thursday night, they had about 200 letters.

“Going into the world is kind of hard,” says Prieto. “And to have this tragic event happen before that, it just seemed appropriate to do something like this.”

The former students are asking people to keep the letters to just two to three sentences each.

You can send your words of encouragement to

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