Artist and poet, Jaeda DeWalt wrote, “When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” If there is one word to describe Pioneer High School’s class of 2020, it would be “resilient.”
The unusual events that these students have faced, and the resilience fostered by these events, became a common theme discussed among all the presenters at Pioneer’s virtual graduation ceremony that took place on June 2, 2020.
The ceremony honored all 47 graduates as well as the staff members that helped them along the way and was one of five parts to this year’s graduation celebrations. Additionally, there were senior photo billboard displays at the Carson City Community Center and at Bodines, a staff and student Zoom Session (filled with well-wishes, laughter, and a few tears), a drive-through diploma pick up at the PHS parking lot, and a special gift from local members of the community and PHS Alumni to the Pioneer Class of 2020.
During the online presentation Jason Zona, principal of Pioneer High School (PHS), remarked, “Though it has probably been the most challenging year of your lives, you can’t let this be the most difficult thing you ever accomplish. You now know you can get through fast-moving water.
“You might not control where the river goes, or how rough the rapids, but you have the ability to steer your life in the direction you choose.” Senator Jacky Rosen advised graduates to use the lessons they have learned to help their community, “Your resilience, your commitment, and your determination have put you on a path to success. As you enter this new phase of your life, stay engaged in your community. Nothing could be more important and necessary.”
PHS graduates were also fortunate enough to hear from Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes. He shared three universal truths to help guide the graduates, “One: Knowledge is only a part of what you must bring to your professional life. Make sure you also add the conviction and the work ethic needed to accomplish the tasks that you undertake to the highest degree of outcome possible.
Two: Have the courage to develop relationships. Our hearts require friendship, acceptance, and love as surely as our bodies require food . . . Three: Always have hope. As you live your life, look for ways to contribute to meaningful civic activities. Your skills are needed in the world. Your generation will provide new solutions, added zest, new insights to improve the human condition.”
Additionally, PHS graduates heard from some of their peers through the online presentation. Valedictorian, Sydney Miller, said, “Life is so challenging, and we truly don’t know what to expect. So take these recent events as a learning lesson. Understand your values.
Try to discover yourself. It is ok to try and fail and, you know, try and fail again, because we have our whole lives ahead of us. Let’s just live the rest of our lives to the fullest. If we can get through this, we can get through anything.” “I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smile, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known,” advised Charish Creon. Tara Mahoney reminded her classmates that, “Overcoming challenges allows us to leave a legacy for those who come after.” Jazmin Estes expressed gratitude for the lessons learned at PHS and stated, “I am confident to take on any challenge thrown my way.”
In spite of the challenges presented over the past few months, Pioneer High School’s class of 2020 has earned a number of accolades, including a record number of scholarships; 20 graduates earned scholarships. Michelle Andrews, Brianna Bleich, Nicholas Moore, Charish Creon, Mary Frayo, Matthew Lafleur, Sydney Miller, Lucia Shindell, and James Uzzell earned the Millennium Scholarship.
Tara Mahoney earned the Aramark Scholarship. James Uzzell earned the Mike and Ruth Pintar Scholarship. Kaya Burdett-Wanamaker and Anahi Diaz earned the Carson City School District Opportunity Scholarship. Brianna Bleich, Charish Creon, Lyndi Day, Jazmin Estes, Andrew Finch, Nevaeh Mason, Shawn Maxwell, and Nicholas Moore earned the Nevada Promise Scholarship. Maia Taylor earned the Charles Keller Memorial Scholarship.
Several specialized diplomas were also awarded. Michelle Andrews, Brianna Bleich, Nicholas Moore, Charish Creon, Mary Frayo, Matthew Lafleur, Morgan Robertson, and James Uzzell earned advanced diplomas. Sydney Miller earned an honors diploma.
Additionally, there were many other recognitions. Tara Anthony was recognized for CTE Health Information Management. Shawn Maxwell, Ashleigha Brackley, Jazmin Estes, Andrew Finch, Neveah Mason, James Uzzell, Wynter Setzer, and Kayla Salazar were recognized for Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (J4NG). Michelle Andrews, Brianna Bleich, Nicholas Moore, Charish Creon, Mary Frayo, Sydney Miller, and Lucia Shindell earned dual high school and college credits through the Jump Start program. Sydney Miller graduated early as a junior, and already earned her Associate of Arts degree from Western Nevada College. Two PHS graduates have plans to serve our country in branches of the United States military: Matthew LaFleur in the Air Force and Rider McDonald in the Navy. The class of 2020 valedictorian was Sydney Miller and the salutatorian was Lucia Shindell. PHS graduates plan on exploring a wide variety of career fields, including: computer science, crisis intervention, social work, law enforcement, education, nursing, the military, and journalism.
PHS offers a variety of classes and programs for students in CCSD. Students who desire more project based learning, a smaller campus and class size ratio, the ability to earn dual college credits towards an associate’s degree or just catch up on credits, should consider enrollment. Engineering Project Lead the Way, AVID, Project Discovery, yoga, ski club, media/journalism, Spanish, speech and debate, student leadership, ceramics, and AP art are just a few examples of the offerings at PHS.
As E. E. Cummings put it, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” The Pioneer High School graduates of 2020 are already well on their way.
You can see the PHS Graduation video at this link: https://www.wevideo.com/view/1733588307