The North Routt Community Charter School’s inaugural class of kindergartners graduated from the eighth grade in May.
Without Shaunna Watterson, the students may not have had the chance.
North Routt resident Jack White, who worked with Shaunna and her husband, Brian, and other local families to start the school, said the Wattersons’ energy was “invaluable” during the process.
“Shaunna and Brian were really the instigators of the whole thing,” White said. “With her local roots, she had a real attachment to getting it going.”
Shaunna, a fifth-generation Routt County resident, can trace her lineage back to the late 1800s when her great-great-grandparents Henry and Carrie Mae McPhee homesteaded on land that is now part of Fetcher Ranch.
She grew up in Steamboat and was the Steamboat Springs High School class valedictorian in 1976. After living away from the county for about 20 years in Denver and Orange, Calif., Brian said his wife wanted to return home.
“She definitely has her heart and soul in Routt County,” Brian said. “She threatened to shoot me if we didn’t move back.”
In 1999, the Wattersons returned to North Routt. Like many other families, they had two young children and wanted them to attend school in their community. So they did something about it.
With other parents, they found a site in the 85-year-old Clark school, conducted a feasibility study, wrote a charter application to the Steamboat Springs School District, designed a curriculum and worked out various legal issues.
Less than a decade later, the school is planning the development of a new facility and has a waiting list for students.
“I’m just really proud of it, what it’s become and continues to be,” said Shaunna, who also served as the school’s first board president.
Shaunna’s commitment to her community didn’t end when the school opened. She and Brian started the annual North Routt Chili Cook-off, which celebrated its eighth year in May, to raise money for the school.
And as a testament to Shaunna’s family legacy in Routt County, she has had a hand in winning the annual Yule Log hunt more than a dozen times.