A Letter to Riley Whitelaw

How does Air Academy High School celebrate the ebullient legacy of Riley Whitelaw?


Daniel Olson

Riley Whitelaw gives a big thumbs up in front of her painting of AAHS principal, Mr. Daniel Olson! The piece was relocated from AAHS to an art gallery exhibit in downtown Colorado Springs following her passing.

Dear Riley Whitelaw,

It is an absolute honor to write this statement to celebrate your personal legacy. From your infectious smile to your charismatic demeanor, your moral character was of the highest distinction. 

Your imaginative spirit and captivating talent has led a movement in the fine arts department, which has inspired students to create tribute pieces in hopes of showcasing the humorous artistic style you possessed.

“It’s going to be something that we carry on forever…We have some things in the works to make sure that her light is shining on,” AAHS principal Daniel Olson remarked. 

The final piece hopes to not only emulate your creative talent, but also intends to highlight your ebullient nature.

“For art three, which is are painting emphasis class, her final piece she had asked if she could hide smiley faces beneath the painting. She always poured her humor and uniqueness into everything that she did,” fine arts and technical theater teacher, Charlie Graybill, noted.

The bright art club poster designed by Riley Whitelaw is proudly displayed within the art and engineering hallway at AAHS. The piece is polychromatic and features meticulously colored dragons and sculptures.

The dedication put into every piece served as an amazing outlet to showcase your individuality. The pieces you created were absolutely mesmerizing and are still remembered by many, including senior Jordan Swain.

“Her paintings and drawings were amazing and I know she worked for hours on every one of them. She had painted a realistic image of her childhood babysitter. Her art final was two beautiful mountain landscapes both night and day, and she made a mushroom sculpture out of clay which she painted for my birthday,” Swain mentioned.

As Swain stated, this campaign hopes to demonstrate your aptitude for creativity, but also intends to promote the vivacious attitude you often embodied. From your contagious smile that always lit up the room to your ability to make students feel comfortable within the classroom, your social impact was beyond comparable. This unmatched impression that you instilled, has positively impacted the lives of so many.

“She was just so sweet. She genuinely cared about what you were talking about and she always had a beautiful smile,” senior Leah Finkle mentioned.

Being the light within the classroom created a positive atmosphere where students and teachers were able to thrive. Your altruistic nature was truly one of a kind and highlighted your positive outlook on life.

“She was one of those people that was just always happy, pleasant, and I never heard her say a bad word about anybody… She was a genuinely kind person, but also quirky and funny in the very best ways,” Olson exclaimed. 

As Olson expressed, your enthusiastic character benefited countless individuals. Your kindliness and moral consideration for others genuinely was an inspiration. The effect you imprinted on others remains unparalleled. Many still recognize this disposition, which has in turn, impacted their lives in monumental ways.

“I deeply care for all students and staff and Riley was a great example of what’s best in all of us I think. She had the qualities that I think we should all strive to exhibit…She’s somebody we can all look up to and model ourselves after how she treated others,” Olson concluded.

Your courageousness, sociability, and amiable personality will forever be celebrated at AAHS by students, staff members, and administrative directors. Your legacy is one that encourages self- expression, social-acceptance, and optimism. Your impact remains present in the artistic community, in the bustling hallways of AAHS, and will forever be celebrated for future generations to come.


Savannah Braden