Donivan Dean's first year in Carson City wasn't easy.
He broke his jaw in a soccer game. The city was smaller than anywhere he'd lived before. The school, Mark Twain Elementary, had only a few black students besides him.
Everyone was nice, he said, but he sometimes felt uncomfortable. People would ask him questions about black history he didn't know.
"I think they were nervous," he said, "because they'd act weird around us."
But Dean, 18, graduated with 31 other students from the city's Pioneer High School on Monday.
It was his second graduation in a week.
He finished high school classes early so he could go through Army boot camp. He said he probably wouldn't have had the chance to do either without the small class sizes of the alternative school.
"They (students) know what they're doing and they know what they need to do," he said. "They all want to graduate high school. It's just they have a harder time then others."
Dean's mother, Teresa Dyke, said the school helped Dean gradate, and boot camp helped him grow up.
"He's different," she said, " and that's not just because of the 40 pounds he's lost."
Dyke said Dean has always been a polite and well-behaved student, but "You should hear him making a reservation for a flight. It's 'Yes mam' and 'no mam.'"
Dean, who lived in Reno and Portland, Ore., between moving to Carson in elementary school and entering Pioneer High School, said he doesn't drink or smoke since he's the oldest of eight children.
"It feels like if I mess up," he said, "I'm not setting a good example for my brothers and sisters."
Pioneer High School Principal Jason Zona said Dean was one of the best students at the school because he was so positive. Some of the students at the school are misunderstood, however, because some think Pioneer is a disciplinary school, which it isn't.
Dean said now that he's graduated both schools, he wants to take criminal justice classes. He's thinking about a career in the military and as a police officer.
He leaves for the Army in less than two weeks.
His mother said his family is proud of everything's he's done.
- Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.