Forty Oasis Academy seniors graduated Friday in the Venturacci Park Gymnasium, the college preparatory school moving forward its first graduating senior class.
Thirty-seven of the 40 students received their associate degrees from Western Nevada College in Carson City Monday.
"Every single student has a plan for next year," said Principal Rochelle Tisdale.
Half the class is walking out the doors with scholarship money including those on track for the Millennium Scholarship. Fourteen seniors were recognized during the scholarship awards night and nine are leaving with academic merit scholarships. The total funds offered to these students through merit, national and local scholarships was over $180,000.
Also, Alyssa Stockard earned a perfect ACT (college readiness assessment) score of 36, and five students scored in the 30s on their ACT.
Many students were involved in student council, yearbook, FFA and high-school rodeo. Three senior girls were on the state championship tennis team and two senior boys competed in the state golf meet. Tisdale added several seniors were instrumental in starting volleyball, basketball, softball and lacrosse.
"I'm just so proud of these kids," Tisdale said. "Because they have managed not only school but college and extracurricular (activities)."
Tisdale described how she was asking students one day if it had been a hard experience and they said yes, if it was worth it, and they said yes, if they would do it all again, and they responded they would.
"It's a group effort," she said. "It's a lot of work but we'd do it all again."
The top five students with the highest GPA were Alyssa Stockard, Devyn Frederick, Michael Richards II, McKenzie Feest and Ethan Smith.
Class officers were Elijah Southfield, senior class president; Janice Bonds, senior class vice president; Richards, student body president; Melyssa Williams, student body vice president; Stockard, historian; and Isabel de la Cruz Martinez, secretary.
Also two graduates, Feest and Richards, are in Phi Theta Kappa, the world's largest and most prestigious honor society for two-year college students.
Twenty students are headed to the University of Nevada, Reno, five to college out of state, four into a military branch, two into a nursing program, two are going into the Truckee Meadows Community College bachelor's degree program and four are staying at WNC to complete their associates.
Schools the students have been accepted to are Brigham Young University, Cedarville University, Eastern Washington University, Texas Christian University, TMCC, the University of California Davis, University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Valley University and UNR.
Tisdale noted Oasis is the largest dual enrollment cohort in the state.
Friday's ceremony featured numerous student speakers and a special song by singer and graduating senior Macey Zeller. Smith, Meghan Rosario, Dana Barton and Timothy Shurtliff also sang the National Anthem. Mayor Ken Tedford was present and gave the invocation and benediction.
Stockard opened her graduate's address with a Jane Goodall quote: "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." She also spoke to Thomas Edison's persistence and a Swedish inventor's development of the three-point seatbelt, estimated at having saved one million lives.
Additionally, the senior as well as others commended Oasis Executive Director Melissa Mackedon for pioneering the Oasis education option.
In her graduation speech, Feest emphasized how Oasis has the largest group of WNC students simultaneously graduating from high school.
"And I think that's amazing," she said smiling.
The keynote speaker was Pat Hickey, executive director of the Charter School Association of Nevada, a journalist and entrepreneur as well as a former assemblyman and member of the State Board of Education.
Richards introduced Hickey, discussing leadership and following one's own path as well as mentioned jokingly that now would be a good time to ask visiting family members for money. He also talked about following one's passion and staying true to one's self. He kidded to follow your path unless you're lost in the woods and see a path, then follow that.
Hickey highlighted Fallon's community and how the students are fortunate to have the roots they do, invisibly providing strength and energy for them to grow, branch out, produce fruits as well as seeds for the future.
"Let me leave you with one thought, one piece of advice if you will," he said. "Be that 'Fallon Heart of Gold' wherever you go, whatever you end up doing. One thought I've learned from a life in the media, in politics, in business and now in education, you never make yourself look better by trying to make another person look bad."
Katie Dahl, Oasis board president and co-founder, assisted Tisdale in handing out diplomas, followed by Tisdale introducing senior Caleb Hendrix — who, she said while smiling, had been hounding her in the hallways all year to speak at graduation.
"Look at my classmates," he said proudly during his closing remarks. "Some of you graduating with honors. I'm just honored to make it this far," he said with a grin.