• Mapleton's Portrait of a Graduate 

    At Mapleton Public Schools, there is an emphasis on fostering students to achieve their dreams, regardless of what those dreams may be, and providing choices for learning. Whether that be pursuing higher education, entering the workforce directly after graduating high school, or pursuing an apprenticeship, we each have a role in ensuring that each student has the opportunity to study the many things they'll need to be successful in their adult lives.

    To highlight Mapleton alumni and their post-high school graduation journeys, we are introducing Portrait of a Graduate.

    If you are an alumnus and would like to share your story, we would love to feature you! Send your story to communications@mapleton.us. We look forward to hearing all of the great things Mapleton alumni are doing!

  • Our first Portrait of a Graduate is Briana Burciaga. Briana, who graduated from Mapleton Early College in 2016, states that her time at Mapleton has instilled her “with traits that prepared me for college, like discipline and flexibility."

    Briana Burciaga

    Q. What post-graduation journey did you take?

    A. I was a student with a high GPA and was told by many I had a promising future, but I convinced myself there was no way I was going to attend college. I was afraid of making the jump and used my fear of failing college classes combined with financial issues as an excuse to avoid the guidance in front of me. There were a couple of people at MEC who had an immense impact on my resolve to go to CU Denver. 

    Q. How would you say your time at MEC prepared you for CU Denver? 

    A. There were three types of support that I got when I attended MEC: organizational, tangible and emotional support. My advisor at MEC was Ryan Fuss. Through our one-on-one meetings, I had the opportunity to talk about any current or future concerns about my education. He was the one who helped me classify each of my academic worries and helped me work through them. Julie Silipo, MEC’s Post-Secondary Options Coach, helped every single student with the daunting task of completing both our college and FAFSA applications. I appreciated her help tremendously. The third person who made a momentous impression on me was Ellen Piangerelli, who was my mentor throughout my internship at the Thornton Arts and Culture Center. Ellen was an incredible mentor because she made sure to develop a relationship with me that would become the emotional push I needed to reinforce my confidence in myself. 

    Q. What are you studying at CU? Do you have a career in mind?

    A. I am currently in the Film and TV program at CU Denver. Through the variety of writing, directing, and production classes, I have been able to narrow what I would like to do as a career. My interest is in post-production, which includes sound design and special effects. Post-production is my favorite role because of the creative and narrative freedom you are given to develop the story you are telling. Choosing to make a certain color pop or using a particular order of shots can completely change the tone of a film and I enjoy the process of deciding what is emphasized.

    Q. What Film and TV experience did you have prior to attending CU Denver? 

    A. The film club at MEC that I was in is called Paradox. I joined Paradox in my senior year and I wish I had done it earlier. Paradox taught me to not only work with other students to create content but also to develop my artistic discipline in the long process of editing videos. I knew by my senior year that I wanted to work in Film and TV and Paradox gave me the opportunity to see an early vision of what that desire would be like in actuality. It was a beneficial stepping stone in my maturation as a high school student to a graduate.  

    Q. How did the opportunity to be a part of the Denver Film Festival come about?

    A. The opportunity of having my film in the Denver Film Festival came because of my scriptwriting instructor, Craig Volk. He was in contact with some of the people who run the festival and sent them my, and some other students’ films, to watch and decide if they wanted to include it. Volk went out of his way to ask me for a link and vouched for my film. I don’t think I can thank him enough for believing in my work and attaching his name to something I made. 

    Q. Tell me about your film.

    A. My film has always been, first and foremost, a gift to my family. I wanted to create something that was in their language and that they could understand, something I could show them and say, “This is what I want to do with my life.” When I first told my mom, I wanted to make a documentary on her, she told me she felt flattered at my choosing her to be my subject because of the freedom I was given to choose anyone I wanted. She put her full trust in me to create something about her life and that is something I am grateful for to this day. She tells me she is very proud of what I have accomplished and that she didn’t expect so many people to be so affected by our story.  

    Q. What was it like to be a part of the festival? Anything unexpected? 

    A. To have this experience as a college sophomore made me feel beyond fortunate. Being in the festival was a very surreal experience. It was also terrifying. I’m a very shy and timid person, so the idea that people with a genuine interest in the documentary would be watching my film really scared me. It was to the point that I didn’t even consider entering my film into any film festivals despite many peers and instructors telling me otherwise. When I got an email from the artistic director of the festival, I felt a whirlwind of emotions. Excitement, anxiety, pride, and dread being some of them. I was even more surprised when I found out my film was chosen to play within the Colorado Documentary Shorts and not a section that was specific to students. 

    Q. How did people react to your film?

    A. I never once thought that something I made could affect people so much that they begin crying. These are people that didn’t know anything about me or my mom and could still become invested in our story. I was completely jolted and moved by this. I remember the first person who watched my film outside of my instructor was another peer, and he started crying in the middle of class. I thought the fact that something I made could inspire this reaction in just one person made my heart feel full and grateful.

    Q. What’s next for you? 

    A. Through my exploration of different roles at school, I’ve found that I have a strong penchant for documentary work. It was a completely different experience than editing a fiction film because, with a documentary, you have the choice to completely change the narrative depending on your footage as you go. Because I deal with real people and their stories with the documentary genre, I become much more attached than I would if it was a fictional story. 

    Q. What advice do you have for current Mapleton students wanting to achieve their dreams?

    A. Some advice that I have for students is to not let a fear of failure in whatever it is they want to do to stop them. If it is a skill they can start developing now, they should! Especially if they don’t think they’ll be good at it and are intimidated by it.


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