Silver State Charter High School's graduation ceremony Tuesday evening was much like its curriculum, without all the bells and whistles that can distract students from the goal.
Twenty-four of the school's 44 graduates took the stage for a 50-minute ceremony at the Carson City Community Center that closed one chapter of their lives, while some were already fully immersed in the next.
Graduate Nick McNeil's father George, the commander for Carson City's Search and Rescue unit, said his son chose to go to Silver State High School when he found resistance from Carson High School to attend college while still in his junior year.
As Nick collected his high school diploma in front of a packed auditorium, he'd already completed half of his freshman year in college.
"I'm proud of him," said a beaming George McNeil. "He kept his focus."
Valedictorian Katherine Williams, 17, said she chose to attend Silver State after spending a summer battling mononucleosis. It was a toss up between Douglas High School and Silver State, and as she proudly clutched her diploma Tuesday, it was apparent she'd made the right choice.
"I came to this school not expecting how much I could achieve," she said during her short speech.
"She has a lot of self-motivation," explained Katherine's mother Karen Williams. "She worked really hard for this."
Katherine said with her $10,000 Millennium Scholarship, she plans to attend college to pursue a degree in child psychology.
Salutatorian Tori Brugger's mother Marie Pennington said her daughter didn't want to deal with the social pressures of drugs and alcohol use that can come with a traditional high school.
"She chose a different path. She worked hard and she did it herself," Pennington said.
Tori, 16, once had aspirations of becoming a veterinarian that were recently replaced by a desire to teach math. She also received a Millennium Scholarship, reserved for students with a grade-point average of 3.25.
Tori's father, John Paul Brugger, said he was moved to tears by the ceremony. "She made the decision to finish early and she did," he said.
Graduate Brittany Parra, 20, said there were many days that she didn't think she'd finish high school.
"I got into a little trouble and was taken out of (Carson) and put into (a job program). That didn't work for me and I ended up at Charter," she said.
On probation for marijuana possession, one could argue the odds of success were stacked against her.
When her daughter Destiny Grace came along, it could have been a excuse for her to quit school altogether, but Brittany found motivation she didn't know she had.
"There were so many points in time that I just wanted to give up, but I didn't because I wanted to be able to show my daughter that I graduated high school," she said.
Brittany said she is familiar with the temptations out there for kids, and she was uncertain what advice she could offer.
But, she admitted quickly, for all the trouble she found in her past that seemed like fun, nothing compared to her elation walking across the stage to receive her diploma.
"It was just a really great feeling. Exciting," she said. "I'm very proud of myself."
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.
Katherine Williams: $10,000 Millennium Scholarship
Tori Brugger: Millennium Scholarship and $1,000 Silver state High School scholarship
Elizabeth Caldwell: Millennium Scholarship
Nicole Prentice: Millennium Scholarship and $1,000 Elks Lodge
Silver State Charter High School
SOURCE: SILVER STATE CHARTER SCHOOL