Craig Ponzio is a man of his word, evidenced by the promise he kept fifteen years ago, and one that changed his life forever. He promised to adopt his daughters Chloe and Anna from an orphanage in China. It took months to complete that commitment, and since, he has watched the two grow before his eyes — the same eyes that light up as he reflects on how far they’ve come since he made that promise.
“I was walking through the orphanage and a little girl reached out and grabbed my finger,” he says. “And that little girl was Anna.” Emotion softens his features as he continues: “Then I went to another part of the orphanage and a little girl was in her crib. And that was Chloe.”
Ponzio was going through the adoption process. Then, Anna was 5 months old and Chloe, 7. By the time the adoption was complete, Anna was 9 months and Chloe, 16.
“And so they came home to Evergreen,” he says.
“What I’m hoping is that they develop into independent people. At the same time, I hope they become the type of people that can be counted on when something needs to be done.”
Fifteen miles west of Denver, tucked away behind snow-capped mountains and punctuated by looming pines, Anna, now a sophomore, describes her first memories of “home.” “I just remember growing up on our property and playing outside a lot. I remember horseback riding and playing with our dogs and hanging out with Chloe.”
The girls went to the Montessori School in Evergreen until eighth grade, deciding to continue at Colorado Academy for high school. Ponzio says he was really looking for a school with a “lifelong learning approach.”
“Next to that, probably the thing that was so important to me was that I wouldn’t try to put them in a little box — I’d like them to become who they’re going to be.”
For Chloe, whom Anna describes as a critical thinker and “academically really strong,” that means enjoying math, practicing language in her French III class, and dancing after school. For Anna that means taking arts classes — her new favorite is photography — and running on CA’s Cross Country team along with Chloe, where the two can rejoice in victories together.
On a recent fall day, the Liberty Bell Cross Country Invitational, a 5K race, featured two firsts for CA: the first time CA won the Invitational, and the first time a CA athlete won the individual top spot. That athlete was Anna with a time of 19:49.
“I got announced as the individual winner, which some would say is a big accomplishment. But I really like to contribute to the team. They’re the reason we’re all holding the trophy,” says Anna. In her second year of running Cross Country, already her accolades include regional champion and 2014 First Team All-State, where she came in fourth individually.
Still, not one to brag about her own accomplishments, Anna steers the conversation back to Chloe and the qualities in her sister that she admires most. “She’s a very gracious person and is always really caring and wanting to help other people. She has a really nice heart.”
It’s what Ponzio wants most for his children — to help others. Perhaps the smile on his face speaks to the realization that his dreams for his girls are coming true.
“What I’m hoping is that they develop into independent people,” he says. “At the same time, I hope they become the type of people that can be counted on when something needs to be done.”
As they’re nurtured through what he calls CA’s “messages on diversity,” he says his girls have learned by the example set at CA to look at the whole person. “Not as people with a lot of descriptive traditional things that might in some cases tend to exclude people, as opposed to include them.”
He sees other results of a CA education too: “They’re more focused on learning than on grades, causing them to stretch themselves to learn a bit more than they may have otherwise. They also love their teachers, and they do just a little bit better of a job than they might have done,” he says.
Ponzio is quick to applaud CA. “They’re very much becoming part of the Colorado Academy family,” he says. “And they look at Colorado Academy as part of their family.”
At the same time, Anna gives her father all the praise and says the hand of the person she reached for all those years ago is the one who deserves the credit. She says he is her biggest role model.