As site principal of Pioneer High School, Charles Keller said graduating classes often take on a collective personality. Some are outgoing, others are exceptionally academic.
He described this year's class as "quiet pluggers."
"We had more kids with more adversity this year," he said. "There were problems with families. Problems with no families. We have several graduates here who will have no family to support them."
But, he said, the adversity made them more determined to succeed.
The alternative high school graduated its largest class - 37 students - Tuesday evening in the Performance Hall of the Brewery Arts Center.
"They made it anyway," Keller said. "They continued to do what they needed to do. They surprised themselves and everybody else."
Even the valedictorian struggled to graduate. After several failed attempts to pass the Nevada High School Proficiency Exam, Katelyn Bergstrom was on the verge of dropping out.
"They called me just last month and told me I passed it," she said. "Then they said, 'Oh, by the way, you're valedictorian.' It wasn't something I expected."
Then three weeks ago, she fell from her horse and broke her pelvis.
"I'm supposed to be on crutches, but they bruise my armpits," she said. "I'd rather just hobble."
Missing her graduation wasn't an option.
"I can prove to everyone that I could do it. I'm graduating when everybody doubted me."
K.C. Pierson, 19, met her own set of difficulties along the way. But her most difficult challenge also turned out to be the most inspirational.
When she found out she was pregnant with her now-10-month-old daughter, Akira, she resolved to finish high school.
"I want to stay in school just so she knew that no matter what she did, she could graduate too," Pierson said. "She can do whatever she wants no matter what."
Many of the students who donned cap and gown to walk down the aisle Tuesday credit Pioneer High School for giving them the chance to succeed.
"I love this school," said Becca Fulbright, 16. "I would never ever go back to Carson High."
"It breaks down stereotypes," Fernando Ramirez, 17, explained. "It gave us a better opportunity to get along with other groups."
And looking back over the hardships of the past four years, they see the personal growth that has resulted.
"I wouldn't trade any of it," Pierson said.
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.
A list of graduates along with the valedictorians and salutatorians will appear in Sunday's Nevada Appeal.