‘We get to go start our lives’
May 31, 2014
After giving birth to her daughter 15 months ago, Haley Machell considered dropping out of high school. But the teachers and staff at Pioneer High School wouldn't let that happen.
"They push you even when you don't want to be pushed," she said. "I had a lot of teachers and family who really supported me and encouraged me to go back to school. All the help they gave me made it so I could graduate with my class."
On Wednesday evening as she marched across the stage of the Carson City Community Center to receive her diploma, she was grateful for the support — for herself and her daughter.
"I want to give her the best life possible," said Machell, 18. "I know graduating high school is the first step in making something better for her."
Jason Zona, principal of the alternative high school, said Machell's story of fortitude is a common one at the school.
"Students, you have not lost sight of your goals," he told the graduates. "We applaud your determination and perseverance."
Zona said several of the 55 seniors were graduating with college credits or already having started their careers.
Jerry Gifford III, 18, is one of them.
"I'm ready to move out and start my career," he said. "I'm going to work with my grandpa. He owns a truck-driving business. I'll be able to work full-time instead of just the weekends or whatever."
Most students, including class valedictorian Matthew Linder, credit the school's small population and dedicated teachers for their success.
Linder said he would have been too shy to deliver the valedictory address otherwise.
"Students come to Pioneer because they need more," he said. "More of a chance, more challenge, more caring. Just more. I've been able to grow as an individual because of the staff and the students at this school."
Shelby Swanson, 18, said the success of the school is evident in the students.
"If you look around, everybody's talking to everybody," she said. "Everyone loves everyone."
And they celebrated their accomplishments together.
"I'm super excited," said Maria Lara, 18. "We get to go start our lives."