YES program provides pair of seniors with opportunity to earn diplomas at their own pace


Tessona Gonzales takes a break from inside the YES classroom at the Moffat County School District administration building in mid April.

Tessona Gonzales hated high school as a freshman.

Everything from the teachers, the course work, and the overall vibe of the building was something she just didn’t care for. Her grades began to decline rapidly and she found herself on the edge of dropping out.

Then the Youth Experiencing Success Program through Moffat County High School offered another avenue for Gonzales.

Without it, Gonzales fears she would have quit school and made having a successful future further out of reach.

“If I would have stayed at the high school and not made the move to the YES program, I would have dropped out of school without a doubt,” Gonzales said. “I hated school, but in my head I knew I needed a diploma to do anything in life.”

Students in the YES program are expected to attend the Alternative School for four hours a day, allowing them go beyond the classroom and do things like work, take care of family or take classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

That ability to go to school for four hours a day, work at her pace, and hold down a full-time job set Gonzales on a path of success to where she is now: a Moffat County High School graduate and soon-to-be cosmetology student at CNCC.

“This program really changed my life,” Gonzales said. “I was able to come here, get away from what I was dealing with at the high school and really work at my pace.”

Gonzales entered the workforce at the age of 14. Citing the desire to not put a significant financial burden on her mother, the then-freshman started working at McDonald’s to help make ends meet, which put a strain on school and saw her grades slip and her relationship with teachers plummet.

The YES program offered an avenue that worked for her though, eventually allowing her to come to school in the morning for four hours, leave in the middle of the day to work a full-time job changing oil at Lube Plus, and stay on track to graduate.

“I was really just able to come here and find what worked for me,” Gonzales said. “I have always liked working, so I wanted to be able to do that, and the YES program offered that to me. It helps that the teachers here really care about you and want you to succeed.

“All the people here are super caring; they want us to graduate, regardless of our circumstances,” Gonzales added. “I was just able to do everything at my own pace and it worked. Here, I realized I wanted to get things done and I want to have a good future, I want to be successful when I grow up.”

Thanks to the YES program and its staff, Gonzales has a bright future ahead of her.

Brandon Ancell sits at his desk inside the YES program classroom at the Moffat County School District administration building in mid April.


Brandon Ancell moved with his family to Moffat County from California when he was 10 years old.

That move was a major adjustment for a young child entering a new school system trying to make new friends and adjust to a new way of life.

Along the way, Ancell said he got into some trouble, eventually leading to him being arrested at 15 years old, charged with breaking and entering, along with a drug possession charge.

That moment, Ancell said, was the wake-up call he needed and helped him turn his life around. Eventually, Ancell landed in the YES program through Moffat County High School, landed a job at Walmart, and plans to or is working to obtain an associate’s degree in business.

For him, it all comes back to that moment and what happened after that in the YES program.

“Prior to that, I was ditching class a lot, like 50% of the time,” Ancell said. “I hated school. I just didn’t want to go; I didn’t like the people or the teachers, and I just had no motivation.”

Fortunately for Ancell, the YES program offered him something that best suited him.

“Getting in trouble really changed my life; it woke me up,” Ancell said. “Then, in my junior year here, I realized that I needed to get caught up and graduate and move on to something bigger and better.”

Crediting his ex-girlfriend, who graduated with the Class of 2020, Ancell said his relationship with her helped him get on track and make school a habit through the YES program, along with the support and the care of the staff in the program.

“She’d pick me up every day and make sure I was in school,” Ancell said. “Getting into that routine really helped me. Then I got a job at Walmart and it all started coming together for me.”

At Walmart, Ancell works as a stocker and unloaded in receiving, which helped him stay disciplined and committed to earning his diploma from MCHS.

Being able to work at his own pace through the YES program was a major factor in Ancell getting to where he is today.

“That really helped me, honestly,” Ancell said. “Working at my own pace, doing it on my own and not worrying about people telling me how to do things or when to do things allowed me to figure things out.

“The staff here is amazing; they’re just so awesome,” Ancell added. “They didn’t nag at me and let me really figure things out myself. If I don’t work, it was my own fault. They gave me my own choice and made me realize I needed to get my stuff together.”

With graduation just days away, Ancell is amazed when he looks back on his time in high school, seeing the growth he had to go from where he was as a freshman to where he is today, on the cusp of receiving his high school diploma.

“I can’t believe it, to be honest,” he said. “I’m just so proud of myself. Looking back, I thought for sure I’d be a dropout as a sophomore, but the program changed my life and I’m grateful for it.”

Managing Editor Joshua Carney can be reached at 970-875-1790 or

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