State Treasurer Kate Marshall confided in the students at Dayton Intermediate School on Wednesday.
"Now, don't go home and tell your parents," she cautioned. "This is between me and you."
She told them that in the fifth grade - a parochial school, the fifth school she had attended - she was failing. She said she would tuck a Nancy Drew novel into her math book because she was so bored by the subject.
Until the day Sister Daniel caught her.
"She whacked me with a ruler in the back of the head," Marshall recounted.
Then Sister Daniel showed up at her house.
"She told my mother I was getting D's and F's," Marshall said.
She asked Marshall's mother to send her daughter to school a half-hour early every morning to complete her homework.
"Sister Daniel changed my life," Marshall said. "From that time on, I started getting A's and B's. I got a scholarship, and I went to college."
She said the same was possible for the Dayton students.
She reminded them that she administers the state's Millennium Scholarship, which awards $10,000 to Nevada high school seniors who graduate with a 3.5 or higher grade-point average and attend college in the state.
"All you've got to do is spend a little time, do your homework," she said. "You can turn those D's and F's into A's and B's and get that Millennium Scholarship."
Marshall was the featured speaker at the assembly aimed at getting students prepared for next week's standardized tests, which will be used to measure Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.
"We want to get our school pumped up for our big test coming up," said Cameron George, 12, a member of the school's leadership class, which organized the assembly. "We wanted to have a whole assembly about it."
Sixth-grader Josie Fraga said she appreciated Marshall's message.
"It was inspiring," she said. "She went to college. She told us if she could do it, we could do it."
As part of the assembly, former students Cheyanne Strong and Jeremy Lozano, now a freshman and sophomore, respectively, at Dayton High School, returned.
Strong, 14, who competes in basketball, volleyball and track, told students her participation in sports was dependent on her grades.
"Grades are the most important thing," she said.
Among other activities at the assembly, students also hosted a fashion show to display the dress-up days planned for next week, and threw a pie in the face of teacher Maria Sauter.
Principal Linda Flaherty said it was a light-hearted way to kick off a big week of testing.
"It plants the seed and gets them thinking about the (tests) and taking them seriously," she said. "The more we can do to remind the kids to always do their best, the better it's going to be."
Along with other testing tips, leadership student Shae Starbuck, 14, had one last piece of advice for her classmates:
"Take it easy and breathe."