‘Can’t wait to see what happens’: Members of local high schools’ class of 2021 discuss their senior year, plans for the future
On navigating her senior year of high school during the pandemic, Linden Lovett, who graduated Tuesday as valedictorian from North Point Academy, said the experience brought uncertainty both in the moment and future plans.
“In that way, it’s been hard — but I’m still full speed ahead, going with it,” said Lovett.
Lovett, who plans to attend UC Berkeley and wants to go into the medical field, said she was grateful that attending North Point Academy this year was an option for her after first attending Nevada Union High School for three years.
The added flexibility to choose classes allowed her to pursue other endeavors in the community, said Lovett, including assisting with research for Granite Wellness Centers’ development of an app aimed toward connecting students in Nevada and Placer counties with health care resources.
Reflecting on her graduating class, among which she says most of the people she knows plan to go on to college, Lovett said, “I’m really excited, and I think it’s really impressive that my peers, my classmates, and myself were so resilient.”
Hallie Trembley, who graduated from Bitney Prep Charter High School last week, described navigating senior year during a pandemic as a “weird” time, noting the lost experiences of attending a senior ball or going on a senior trip.
Trembley plans to attend Sierra College next year with the goals of transferring to a four-year university and eventually attending medical school, and said these goals were fostered during her time at Bitney Prep.
“Bitney definitely helped me with that,” she said, explaining that she received support in starting an anatomy club at the school, and that she completed an internship with local urgent care center YubaDocs through Bitney Prep’s internship program.
NEVADA UNION, GHIDOTTI
On an academic year entirely within a pandemic, Evelyn Grandfield, who graduated Wednesday from Nevada Union High School as valedictorian, said her immediate concern was for those who began high school under these circumstances — although she noted the year brought added academic challenges for her as well.
“It’s been really, really rough, and … I don’t know what the remedy to that is, other than we’re going back to some semblance of normal school next year,” said Grandfield. “And I really hope that younger kids realize that every year is different, and this year really was such an exception.”
Grandfield plans to attend Wesleyan University in Connecticut to pursue a degree in political science. She said she aims to also focus on environmental studies, an area she first dove into during her time on Nevada Union’s debate team, during which she qualified for a prestigious tournament earlier this year.
“The last two weeks … have kind of felt like an entire senior year framed into this super short span, and it’s given me a really good degree of motivation,” said Grandfield, adding that she “can’t wait” to visit friends and travel this summer amid recovery from the pandemic.
Maggie Aguilar Diaz, who will be graduating from Ghidotti Early College High School today, said that, while she went into her senior year with optimism, it “was really tested” as she missed in-person social interaction peers and teachers, as well as events such as rallies and dances.
“It was really hard at first, but I found ways to … push for more mental health advocacy and figuring out my definition of purpose, and ways to have fun even when you’re isolated,” said Diaz, who served as her graduating class’ president this year.
Diaz plans to pursue a business degree at Menlo College, and says she chose to attend college at a small school after observing the benefits of being in a small academic setting at Ghidotti, including making a bigger difference upon getting involved.
“It’s an exciting new world, and I’m so excited to see where everyone ends up, and where I end up,” said Diaz on graduating.
“It’s the start of a new journey, and it’s super sad leaving a place you know as home, because Ghidotti is my second home, but there’s so much possibility out there and I just can’t wait to see what happens.”
Forest Charter’s Academic Dean Paul Simoes said his school’s graduation was attended by 60 of its 80 graduating seniors.
The first portion of the ceremony last Saturday celebrated Nevada City and Grass Valley-area students who use the local learning center on Searls Avenue. The second portion of the ceremony honored students from the Truckee and Auburn learning center locations.
Simoes said because of the small size of the school, each student got “their moment in the sun” at graduation when their advising faculty members gave a brief speech about the graduates as they received their diploma.
Simoes said the charter school’s supervising teachers, or STs, work with six to seven students over the course of their education to help tailor and optimize their educational experience.
“In the past students hug their ST, but this year they just gave a warm wave,” Simoes said.
Simoes said each graduate was limited to five guests, who were seated at tables appropriately distanced amid the ongoing pandemic.
“There was a little push back, but we directed folks to the outskirts so they could look on from Zion Street,” Simoes said.
Approximately 30% of this year’s graduates will be going to a four-year university in the fall, Simoes said. Forty percent will attend a community college and the final 30% are undecided, taking a gap year or beginning work.
“The four-year college path is slowly declining, but nothing precipitous,” Simoes explained, adding that this year’s interest in four-year schools was “kicked downward” from 33% to 28%.
Simoes said he’s noticed an increase in students’ interest in junior college opportunities because the first two years are free.
“That number is swelling because more students see JCs as a viable path,” Simoes explained, whether they are taking a step in the longer-term academic ladder or doing a one-off certificate program, getting their foot in the door.
Simoes said some of this year’s graduates expressed interest in the veterinary technician certificates and firefighting.
“Sierra College offers more and more programs, professions that don’t require a bachelors or beyond,” Simoes said.
Simoes said the charter school opted for distance learning the entire year. The school has always accommodated different learning models for various reasons, whether students rode regularly on a ski team or were navigating academics and a part time job.
“A lot of the kids are over it,” Simoes explained. “As tech savvy as the kids are, most of them are over it and really looking forward to getting back to it in person.”
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