Sierra Lutheran graduates celebrate amid ‘crucible’ of COVID

Members of Sierra Lutheran High School’s Class of 2022 stood before their families after accepting their diplomas Saturday.

Members of Sierra Lutheran High School’s Class of 2022 stood before their families after accepting their diplomas Saturday.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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Sierra Lutheran valedictorian Charlotte Choat thanks her family and friends during her speech Saturday. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

Sierra Lutheran High School executive director Brian Underwood, this year’s graduation speaker, was proud to be chosen for the task but quickly recognized he wasn’t the only one under consideration. He recounted with family members and friends celebrating on Saturday that one graduating young man suggested media personality and retired professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin for the honor. Underwood shared how Austin has a local residence in Northern Nevada but said he unfortunately turned down the request, stirring laughter among the audience.

Sierra Lutheran High School’s 27 seniors walked the stage for the school’s 18th commencement ceremony and celebrated its 20th anniversary. Underwood said the culmination has been part of the site’s overall season of growth with its expansion plans underway for the fall.“It’s fun to see it all wrapped up here today,” he said. “We have a lot of talented graduates going on. Our administrators have had a chance to work with these students, and we’re excited to see what they’ll do.”

Sierra Lutheran salutatorian Caleb Potts gives his address during the school’s graduation ceremony Saturday. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

During the ceremony, Underwood said the class of 2022 brought personality and achievement during its four years since 2018 even as COVID-19 turned its world upside-down. Having filled in this year to teach two sections of an English 3 class, he referred to playwright Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” comparing the pandemic as the “difficult trial” by which this year’s students have endured a number of challenges but succeeded in their high school journey.“You could never have conceived how much it would change your future plans,” Underwood told the outgoing seniors.

Members of Sierra Lutheran High School’s Class of 2022 stood before their families after accepting their diplomas Saturday. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

Valedictorian Charlette Choat, who plans to go on to Seattle Pacific University to major in linguistics, said in her speech she was grateful for learning an “unrestrained knowledge of a myriad of subjects” from her teachers and took the opportunity to encourage her peers. She thanked God and her family for their support as well.
“I have wanted for no amount of love and have found a home in the most inconvenient of places and people,” she said of her destination in Seattle. “I am leaving here not because I do not care for the friendship you have provided me but because your friendship has taught me that the world is far more receptive and amiable than I have ever imagined.”

The graduating class’ senior officers, including salutatorian Caleb Potts and valedictorian Charlotte Choat, presented their class gift and thanked the school for their support this year. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

She said she chose linguistics because she had taken two Spanish classes, including one at Western Nevada College, and had enjoyed learning languages and traveling.
Salutatorian Caleb Potts, who was active in theater, cross country and various leadership roles as a Falcon, told the Appeal he plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. His sister previously graduated from SLHS as well.
“I think one big thing was that I really found myself here,” he said.
Dean of students Kitty Murphy called 2021-22 a “refreshing” school year with the pandemic taking a back seat to focusing on the students.
“This senior class is close,” she said. “They’re not all friends, but they enjoy each other, even taking a day off when they’re not supposed to. But a lot of times, you have your little cliques. I drove them to Great America."

Sierra Lutheran High School executive director Brian Underwood, who filled in for two sessions of English 3 this year, spoke about the “crucible” students experienced but also developed courage through their trials. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

The students received their diplomas and had an opportunity to turn their tassels. As was tradition, they also presented flowers to family members. The senior class officers also announced their class gift, which was the Falcons’ fence art lining its football stadium along North Sunridge Drive.
Underwood said it was important to recognize this cohort’s perseverance on a local and national level.
“A lot of the classes of 2022, they spent about a third of their (high school) career behind masks and being asked to stay away from their friends and not being allowed to have the experience that they thought, so I think perseverance clearly (defines this class),” he said. “We’ve had different discussions with them.”
He said a few standout graduates in making collegiate choices include going to Montana State University, Arizona State University or Seattle Pacific University, but one of Sierra Lutheran’s laurels is capturing the interest of students who choose to remain home for college or trade school and will opt for UNR, Western Nevada College or other local routes.
“We have students a lot of times who enjoy where they’re from,” he said. “I think that’s a thing to celebrate.”

Sierra Lutheran High School’s senior class officers presented their class gift during their graduation ceremony Saturday, which was to provide fence art showing the school’s emblem along North Sunridge Drive. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal



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