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By Rachel Friend and Nicole Rajpal

High school is a notoriously difficult rite of passage, and this year’s graduating Boulder Valley School District seniors have had a particularly rough ride.

They spent a portion of these formative years unexpectedly and suddenly schooling from home, learning how to navigate online courses, masking up, daily health screenings and being required to stay home when any sign of illness surfaced. Many of their sports practices, competitions, after school activities, performances, and tournaments were canceled or moved to a lackluster virtual format.

They spent months sequestered in their homes with family, during a time of life when peer interactions are particularly critical. Instead of attending school dances or driver’s education, they were redirected to extra time on screens.

They endured a mass shooting and wildfires in their backyard. Societal upheavals have been their high school norm. They’ve experienced mental health challenges, and learned up close about loss, at devastating rates.

We are proud of the entire 2022 BVSD senior class and honor them for their fortitude and achievements. In unprecedented times, they have proven to be unprecedentedly empathetic and resilient young adults.

The next few weeks will include well-deserved celebrations for these remarkable young adults. In light of recent tragedies, we want to ensure that graduates and their families are aware of some tips and available resources to help celebrate safely.

First, a quick word on fentanyl: We implore all community members to not take street drugs. We continue to have lethal, fentanyl-laced pills circulating throughout Boulder County, and taking just one of these pills can be deadly. We encourage folks to consider having Narcan in their homes in case anyone accidentally ingests fentanyl. More information is here:

Likely most relevant for the coming weeks is the issue of driving after consuming drugs or alcohol. Drunken driving is still the No. 1 cause of death on the road, and it is a significant problem in our community.

The City of Boulder strives to achieve Vision Zero, meaning zero traffic-related fatalities or serious injuries every year. Traffic fatalities are preventable — but it takes our collective effort to get there. Big nights like celebratory holidays and graduations bring even more opportunities for road conflicts, and require all of us to lean in to our Vision Zero goal with heightened focus and purpose.

Many of us have taken the past few years off from graduation parties. These multiparty weekends are a different beast than many celebratory nights, because we move around so much going from party to party. That makes it especially critical to be — or have — a designated sober driver for the entire day and night.

We of course do not condone underage substance use. But we are fools if we fail to recognize the reality that some graduates may make the choice to use. For those who do, consider reading the information released by District Attorney Michael Dougherty’s office at

Again, the most legal, safe, and direct path is to simply choose not to consume alcohol or drugs. But if you’re taking a different path, we ask, for your future (and your parents’ peace of mind) that you plan ahead through some combination of the following:

Leave your car at home, which can eliminate the temptation to drive later on.

Pick a trustworthy designated driver. Please note — a trustworthy DD is someone who is not drinking at all that day. Some think designated driving means they just need stop after a drink or two — that person is not your ride!

Download a rideshare app like Lyft or Uber. You can use it as your primary source of transportation all night, or as a backup if your best-laid plans fall through. (Uber gifts cards: and Lyft gift cards:

Download the RTD mobile ticket app and fund a few tickets ahead of time. Using RTD to get around town is a great habit year-round. (RTD schedules: and RTD mobile tickets:

Make a plan in advance with an adult who can give you a “no questions asked” safe ride home if the need arises.

And finally, a note to parents and other community members to have the necessary frank discussions that result in a plan for teens not to drive if they plan to drink or get high, and not to get into a car with a driver who is impaired. Take a minute to go over graduation night plans with teens. Offer a “no questions asked” ride. If you are hosting a party, consider offering attendees Uber or Lyft vouchers.

The last few years have reminded us that it is incumbent on each of us to safekeep our friends and neighbors, and we feel lucky to live in such a beautiful and kind-hearted community. We look forward to celebrating with our graduates in the coming weeks, and are excited to see where their futures take them!

Rachel Friend is the Boulder mayor pro tem and mother of a 2022 Fairview High School graduate. Nicole Rajpal is a member of the Boulder Valley School Board.