If "dress for success" fulfills its promise, at least one Middle Park High School senior has a bright future.
In the age of understated teen fashion in America's public schools, 2012 valedictorian Marshall Simone has worn a suit - complete with button-down oxford, tie and dress shoes - nearly every day to school since 8th grade.
He stands out as a sort-of "Alex P. Keaton" - Michael J. Fox's character in the '80s sitcom "Family Ties" - among schoolmates dressed in T-shirts and jeans.
He may be the only 18-year-old in the county who uses a shoe-shining kit on a regular basis.
"I view school as a professional setting," Simone said, dressed in a smart gray suit, white shirt and deep-red patterned tie on the last Wednesday of his high school career.
The teen owns about 14 full suits and sport coats he mostly finds at thrift stores, and if he had to guess, about 50 ties, most of which were handed down from his late grandfather's closet.
Wearing suits allows him to "create an image I want to project," Simone said. "I'm more in command of myself when I have control of the image people see of me.
"I feel I do better."
He admits his fondness for semi-formal attire developed in middle school when every once in a while he'd wear a tie to school "for attention."
A friend suggested he wear the look to its fullest, suit and all. So Simone went out and bought a blue blazer, he said. Shortly after, the reason for wearing a suit evolved from an attention-getting stunt to his signature appearance.
"I realized I had this new confidence," Simone said, "and I could accomplish what I wanted."
Since the latter part of 8th grade, Simone has only deviated from wearing a suit about two to three times each school year. One time he wore jeans and a T-shirt to school on a dare. For winning the bet, the class was treated to cookies.
When the Student Council promotes costume days during homecoming, Student Council President Simone tries "to make it work as best I can," he said. For example, on '80s dress day, "I wear a double-breasted suit because those were big in the '80s," he said.
"Everyone gives him props. We find it amazing when we see him in jeans," said Middle Park junior Megan Lovato.
"When he wears jeans, it is weird; it's not Marshall," said senior Audra Lorton.
Yet surprisingly, Simone didn't make "Best Dressed male" in the Panthers' 2011-2012 yearbook. That honor went to Justas Marcinkevicius.
Simone, who had a first-semester grade point average of 4.04 this year, may be preening for a political career.
He plans to attend Macalester College in Minnesota, to major in political science.
"I have an interest in making decisions that can improve people's lives and make a positive difference," he said.
He has been a class representative on the Student Council for his entire high school career, having served as vice president for a short time before being elected president his senior year.
"I'm pretty much the Gerald Ford of high school presidents," he said.
One of Simone's political accomplishments since, students say, is succeeding in getting a new microwave in the lunchroom.
Simone developed an interest in political science when he realized he didn't want to be an engineer, he said.
"I like math, but I didn't want to do it for the rest of my life."
He played trumpet in the high school band, was a member of the honor society for two years, was a member of Knowledge Bowl, a member of the golf team for three years, and was in the robotics program as a sophomore.
As a registered Democrat, Simone has been serving on U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' (D-Boulder) Youth Advisory Committee, reviewing topics of concern among the state's young people. Hot-button topics of late have been health care and immigration, Simone said.
Recognizing that the political climate is much more "polarized than it used to be," Simone said he looks up to government officials who can "communicate across the aisle" and do "what's best for the majority of people. Too often, politics are dominated by special interests and political pressure," he said.
Although his senior yearbook reflects a Facebook theme, unlike most teens, Simone has so-far shunned social networking.
"I prefer to communicate with people the old-fashioned way, through conversation," he said. Social networking "takes the 'social' out of being social," he said.
"He's definitely one of the most interesting parts of the school because everyone knows who he is," said his sister Middle Park sophomore Marisa Simone."
And faculty talk about his work ethic and intelligence.
"He's probably one of the most politically aware and astute students I've ever had," said 18-years English teacher John Reynolds.
"One of the first questions when I was hired was, 'Why is that student wearing a suit?'" said Middle Park Counselor Secretary Kelsey Caliva. "The woman training me at the time said, 'Oh. He does every day.'"
Caliva eventually learned Simone seeks to make good on that image.
"He's well-spoken, put together, very kind, incredibly intelligent," she said.
"Out of the senior class, I feel Marshall might be one who could change the world for us."
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603