Honors School valedictorians challenge themselves

Vaz, Winder credit others for their successes at CCHS

Honors School Co-valedictorian Vera Vaz walks up to the stage before giving her speech.

Honors School Co-valedictorian Vera Vaz walks up to the stage before giving her speech.
Photo by Thomas Ranson.

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Honors School valedictorians Vera Vaz and McKay Winder delivered their speeches at Friday’s graduation for Churchill County High School.

Vaz said her father made an impact in her life. The late Dr. Apollo Vaz, who died in 2017, was a physician at Banner Churchill Community Hospital as well as at many other hospitals and clinics.

Because of his influence, Vaz said she will attend the University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and plans to attend medical school.

“My long-term goal is to become a family practice physician,” she said. “I definitely think my dad, being in the medical field, was a big inspiration for me to pursue a career like that. I used to go to his work and saw how he helped people. That is something I want to do.”

Vaz said she has taken Emergency Management Technician and Certified Nursing Assistant classes but will be taking those exams in the future.

Thomas Ranson/LVN
McKay Winder, one of two Honors School Co-valedictorians, is recognized during Friday’s graduation ceremony.


In pursuing a medical
 career, she credits science instructor Steve Johnson for helping her as well as Elaine Adams, who instructs healthcare classes and advises HOSA, a student organization that prepares future health professionals. During her senior year, Vaz served as the regional vice president for HOSA, the first student from CCHS who has held a statewide position.

In her HOSA position, Vaz said she used Zoom to visit other schools.

Vaz also said she enjoyed Karl Marsh’s science classes and Myke Nelson’s psychology class.

During the past four years, Vaz has balanced her schedule with athletic and other academic endeavors. She most recently served as president of the high school’s National Honor Society chapter and was on the academic team for four years. She was also the student body vice president this year and a student board representative on Lead-On Nevada.

During her freshman year, she played basketball, but afterward, she continued to play soccer and run track

Vaz said the teamwork environment has developed networking and working with different groups and communicating with people better so that they understand their roles. She also said the community, her church and mother, Prima, also became big supporters in her endeavors.

Vaz received many scholarships including two from UNR (Alumni and Presidential), Soroptimist International of Fallon, Fallon Rotary Club and the B.C.C.H. Auxiliary Mae Haden Memorial Scholarship to name a few.

Throughout high school, Winder never thought he would be at the top, but as he excelled in his classes for the past four years and achieved honors in his extracurricular activities, the Fallon student soon discovered he was at the top.

Winder, along with Vaz, became a co-valedictorian and realized the need to take the honors and Advanced Placement classes.

“I took many AP classes, anything that could challenge me,” Winder said. “The ones I enjoyed were AP History and AP English Literature because the teacher allows you to see the world differently.”

Winder said he enjoyed the two classes taught by Keith Lund and Monica Fairbanks, respectively, as well as AP Chemistry taught by Steve Johnson and the classes offered in Vo-Ag (Vocational Agriculture).

Belonging to the FFA program, however, prepared the Churchill County native for leadership positions where he could serve as a role model and positive influence. He also earned top showmanship awards in livestock shows such as the Churchill County Junior Livestock Show and Sale, which is conducted every April.

“The shows gave me more confidence,” Winder said, citing his success from this year’s event.

Winder has been involved with showing livestock beginning first with 4-H and then FFA, a span that includes elementary school through his senior year in high school. Being involved as an officer with the CCHS chapter of National Honor Society and his seminary classes with the Church of Latter Day Saints have boosted his confidence in speaking out with his peers. As a senior, he was one of the state’s top students in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy speech and essay contest.

During his earlier years at CCHS, Winder said he played basketball and football. He also earned his Eagle Scout and belonged to the International School.

Winder will be busy as he prepares for his two-year church mission, and once he returns, he will attend Brigham Young University studying chemical engineering. He credits Johnson for developing his interest in the academic field.

In addition to getting a Brigham Young University Scholarship, Winder received a
Churchill County School District Board of School Trustees Scholarship
Churchill County FFA Bull Sale and Chapter Scholarship in addition to a number of local and area scholarships.
Winder said he would also like to thank his Heavenly Father.

Melanie Plasse
Plasse was featured separately on June 2 in the Lahontan Valley News as the Jump Start valedictorian at Western Nevada College. Go to https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/2021/jun/02/wnc-fallon-grad-jump-starts-career-dancing for her story.


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