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Graduating seniors in Nevada county weigh financial, academic concerns for college

Victoria Penate
Staff Writer

By the numbers

As of June 5

Number of COVID-19 cases: 49

Number tested: 3,346

Number in western county: 12

Number in eastern county: 37

Number of active cases: 6

Number of recoveries: 42

Number of deaths: 1

Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus

Volunteering has helped shape Natalie Hays’ goals.

A member of the class of 2020 at Ghidotti Early College High School, Hays has volunteered and interned for the Nevada County Library, at the Grass Valley and Madelyn Helling branches.

“We’re capable of so much positive change,” said Hays, who plans to attend UC Davis to study political science in the fall.

“Something that made me really passionate about politics was working with kids and being able to teach them the importance of reading and a good education,” said Hays.

During her time at Ghidotti, she got a head start in her college-level studies, earning associate degrees with honors in natural science, social and behavioral science, and liberal arts.

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Hays said one of the most difficult things about finishing high school in the midst of COVID-19 was not being able to say the goodbyes she had imagined, unable to hug the teachers and professors who had helped her so much along the way. However, she is determined to look on the bright side.

“What I’m trying to do is find the best in the situation and just say that I’m so immensely grateful that we even got something,” said Hays. “And I know that our generation and my classmates are only going to come out stronger from this.”

Hayes is one of many graduating seniors across Nevada County navigating a changed world.

For Sidd Sharma, science education at Ghidotti sparked an interest he intends to pursue as a career. Sharma will begin studying cellular and molecular biology at Chico State in the fall, hoping to ultimately attend medical school.

He credits his freshman year science teacher, Tom Kirwan, with pushing him academically in a way that prepared him for his upcoming studies.

“It kind of made me hit a brick wall, and then I really started to learn how to study and be a better student, which helped me in the long run,” said Sharma.

In lab classes offered by Sierra College, he also gained hands-on experience performing dissections and learning up close about human and animal biology, helping to solidify his interest in studying medicine one day.

“It took me a while to adjust to the college classes and weekly schedule, but once I figured out my learning style, I just kept moving forward,” said Sharma.

‘WE MADE IT WORK’

“It just hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Maggie Pruett, a member of the newest class of graduates of Nevada Union High School.

Pruett will be moving to San Luis Obispo in January, where she plans to begin studying engineering at Cuesta College.

She recalled one of her most motivational high school experiences as being a teacher’s assistant for history teacher Ken Buck. “He made me feel so smart and special,” said Pruett, adding that he encouraged her to contribute in class, start conversations, and actively engage with the material.

From athletics — softball, diving, track, and soccer — to multiple advanced placement classes, she took many opportunities in high school to pursue not only academic learning experiences but new ways of thinking about her future.

Pruett was just returning to Nevada Union following recovery from a concussion in March, and was weeks behind on schoolwork when the school transitioned to a distance learning model. She worked hard to catch up as both coursework and preparation for AP exams were complicated by their new, virtual formats.

“I totally commend the AP teachers and students equally for being able to show comprehension of a year of learning in 45 minutes,” she said. “We made it work.”

FINDING SUCCESS

“I was really touched by everybody because they never gave up on me,” said Alexis Atencil, a member of Silver Springs High School’s class of 2020. She praised the school’s small size for fostering the one-on-on attention that allowed her to connect with her teachers.

Atencil credits her math teacher, Shawn Silva, in particular with helping her succeed in a subject she had previously struggled in. “He was just really good at explaining everything, and helped my motivation go up toward math,” she said.

In reference to moving on from high school, she said, “I’m sad but also very excited to start a new journey in life, do new things, and start a career.” Atencil plans to go to Paul Mitchell Beauty School next year to become a cosmetologist.

One of the highlights of her time at Silver Springs was completing a senior portfolio, a multi-part project designed around learning more about her chosen career path, including the financial structures, working conditions, and history of cosmetology.

“I’m proud of just graduating in general because I came a really, really long way from my sophomore year to my senior year, and I felt that my senior portfolio showed that,” said Atencil.

Angelina Dominguez, a 2020 graduate of Silver Springs, echoed the sentiment that the school’s faculty and community provided essential support. “I honestly think, if it weren’t for this school, I wouldn’t be graduating,” she said.

Dominguez recounted that she was previously having a difficult time while attending school in Sacramento before coming to attend Silver Springs for the last six months of her senior year. After arriving holding only 80 of the required 200 units to graduate, she completed the remaining 120 within those last six months.

“All the staff and all the teachers — if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would be where I am,” said Dominguez. She shared that, after finding math particularly difficult, she progressed through her coursework at Silver Springs to the point of consistently scoring A’s on her math tests.

“Before I came to this school, I had never even thought about going to college. It was this school that introduced me to the idea,” said Dominguez. She will begin attending Sierra College in August.

‘I FOUND MY PERFECT MAJOR’

“Time moved so weirdly the past couple months. It doesn’t really feel like it’s done,” said Morgan Ham, reflecting on her experience as she graduates with Bear River High School’s class of 2020.

She will be attending Sierra College in the fall, where she will pursue an associate degree in communication, hoping to transfer to a four-year university afterward and major in agricultural communication.

“I’ve been immersed in the agricultural world. I live on a farm, so combining my love for agriculture and not only journalism but all communication, I found my perfect major,” said Ham.

Ham said that her favorite experience at Bear River was her involvement in the school’s journalism program. She was an editor at the Bear River “Current” for three years.

“I think it’s helped me experience things that not a lot of high schoolers get to experience, like being able to go to the courthouse and cover issues that affect our school legally, or pursuing other news stories,” said Ham.

She said one of the highlights of her high school experience was creating a team with her sister and two close friends to compete in California’s first-ever Future Farmers of America agricultural communication competition.

“We threw ourselves into it without knowing anything, and we actually took second place in the state last year,” said Ham.

MORE IN THIS SERIES

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Patchwork of tenant protections intact for now

The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County

Nevada City collaborates with county and nonprofits to move campers off Sugarloaf Mountain

‘I may have now but I might not tomorrow’: No uptick in Nevada County homelessness amid COVID-19, but future concerns linger

Nevada County housing market sees increased demand, limited inventory

Nevada County graduates consider options in wake of COVID-19

Nevada County students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships

Graduating seniors in Nevada county weigh financial, academic concerns for college

Career education program adapts to meet needs of students

‘I just want to play’: Players, coaches, ADs and officials eye safe, speedy return of high school sports

‘Should I jump into a career?’ Many questions remain for students, teachers and administrators as the future draws nearer

Nevada County middle schoolers, high school underclassmen unsure what to expect next year

Support systems for Nevada County teens go virtual during pandemic

Sierra College summer enrollment not slowing

‘The best they could’: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools reflects on the school year, ponders what’s to come this fall

‘I can’t see the bottom now’: Administrators consider where and whether to make layoffs amid revenue shortage

‘These kids want to ball’: Youth sports organizations grapple with tough decisions regarding COVID-19 safety

Hamstrung: Nevada County summer sports scene hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County theaters go dark for the year

Movie theaters struggle to cover rent, utilities in an industry that typically operates with narrow profit margin

‘Planning for all of it’: Nevada City Film Festival moves online for this year’s event

Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances

For Nevada County musicians, the show goes online

Nevada County artists adapt, host online galleries, concerts and workshops

Street fair cancellations in Nevada City, Grass Valley a huge economic hit

‘We are the recovery; we are essential’: Nevada County Arts Council survey reveals artists, art organizations are struggling

Who’s zooming whom? Creativity among Nevada County artists in the pandemic era

Nevada County Arts Council receives $112K Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education grant for new project

Nevada County nonprofit funding in jeopardy

Nonprofits struggle to serve clients during pandemic shutdown

Nevada County animal rescue groups see surge in fosters, adoptions

Nevada County’s thrift stores move ahead with reopening

Possible postponement, cancellation of Nevada County Fair would negatively impact several Nevada County nonprofits

Local nonprofits feeling the effect of canceled, postponed fundraising events due to COVID-19

Feeding Nevada County: Effort to help those hungry bolstered by partnerships between nonprofits (VIDEO)

Nevada County youth organizations adjust to public health requirements

Volunteer work faces changes at Nevada County nonprofits amid restrictions

‘Do you have reserves?’ Still much uncertainty over how nonprofits will fare in coming months, years

Government business continues in isolation during COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County, cities collaborate to reopen safely

Wildfire prep in Nevada County continues virtually during pandemic

‘This is why we signed up’: Librarian, homeless shelter manager continue working during pandemic

Financial aid offers much-needed relief in western Nevada County for those who can get it

Grass Valley trims staff in response to COVID-19 shutdown

Nevada County: Staffing, service reductions not yet needed

Nevada County property tax on par despite pandemic

Nevada County health workers say they currently have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment

Hospice of the Foothills continues providing end-of-life care during COVID-19 crisis

Senior care facilities on lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

Residents of Nevada County senior living communities staying connected

‘Continue to plan and prepare’: Hospital analyzes finances, anticipates federal funding to ensure financial stability

Nurses in Nevada County and the region talk about why they love their jobs

Nevada County not planning to release more detailed COVID-19 case data

Officials: Testing is key in calls to reopen in Nevada County, across California

Nevada County doctors change approach to providing care due to COVID-19

The trifecta: Public health experts recommend testing, contact tracing and supported isolation to phase into a reopened world

Investigating the impact: Lack of revenue, uncertain return date causes concern for arts and entertainment venues

Impacts of Idaho-Maryland mine to be revealed soon

Nevada County artists discuss how COVID-19 shutdown has affected them

‘The arts are essential’: Center for the Arts launches emergency relief fund

Real estate sales strong in Nevada County despite challenges

No slowdown seen in Nevada County construction industry despite COVID-19 lockdown

Nevada County government, home improvement and real estate representatives talk business during COVID-19

‘I’d like to place an order’: In light of COVID-19, the demand for home delivery services in Nevada County is at an all-time high

Grass Valley, Nevada City first to feel COVID-19 economic hit

See you soon? Small business owners struggle, but are hopeful for a brighter tomorrow in Nevada County

Nevada County businesses struggle navigating economic relief

Nevada County health care providers pivot on financial tight rope

‘A sudden and dramatic downturn’: Nevada County economy will be hurt for longtime following coronavirus slowdown, expert says

‘A recession, let alone a depression’: Western Nevada County businesses apply for federal loans, but most have yet to receive money

Nevada County businesses, governments, nonprofits navigate uncertain times, worry what’s ahead

RELATED RESOURCES

http://www.TheUnion.com/coronavirus

http://www.MyNevadaCounty.com/coronavirus

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.


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