Pioneer High honors 43 graduates

Graduate Faith Key, right, addresses Pioneer High’s Class of 2023 during commencement on May 31, 2023.

Graduate Faith Key, right, addresses Pioneer High’s Class of 2023 during commencement on May 31, 2023.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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For Pioneer Academy’s senior Mhara Parsh, it was a pleasant surprise to be named valedictorian. She had had only spent the past few months of her senior year at the school.

The choice was hers to move from Carson High School after experiencing severe mental anxiety and selective mutism; but at Pioneer, she was embraced with open arms to complete her classes and given the tools she needed in an alternative learning environment. She said Pioneer was a viable option for her after her sister first attended and said it was less stressful as a smaller campus and said there was less stress to perform better as a student.

Parsh hopes to study mycology, the branch of biology that deals with fungi, because of her affinity for plants and animals and the opportunities it holds in health care.

“It’s still a relatively small field and there’s so much potential in fungi, especially for medicinal purposes,” she said.

Pioneer Academy honored 43 students’ accomplishments during its graduation ceremony Wednesday, including the presentations of diplomas, scholarships and recognitions of programs students participated in as seniors this year.

Parsh and salutatorian Rogan Stryffeler were presented for their academic achievements.

Pioneer now has two new organizations for which students can participate in, and seniors Ollie Hill and Faith Key were recognized for their membership in the National Speech and Debate Association. Students Tierney Frost, Key, Tatrianna McDonnell, Andrea Munoz, Stryffeler and Madelyn Peachay qualified as National Honor Society members, having reached and maintained a grade point average of 3.0 and providing community service.

Frost also was recognized for earning a Career and Technical Education diploma and certificate in graphic design.

Stryffeler credits hard work and determination for making it among the top of her class.

Stryffeler moved from Columbiana, Ohio, to Carson City where she enrolled in Pioneer’s online program.

“Really, I just was interested in the online aspect and the freedom of being able to do whatever during the day as long as you stay on top of your schoolwork,” she said. “If I had to go back and do it all over, I’d choose it again.”

Besides her studies, she works full-time with two jobs, one at a salon in Reno and the other as a nanny for a young couple.

She has taken Honors English, which she said she felt was her best subject.

“I enjoy writing a lot, and I love literature,” she said. “Any genre really interests me.”

She would like to major in English and minor in philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno and eventually attend law school but hasn’t decided where she might apply for that.

“I’m leaving my options open; I don’t know what type of law school yet,” she said.

Other Pioneer graduates were considering their futures.

“I’m a little nervous,” graduate Aliyah Berumen said. “But I’m also like, give me that paper!”

Hall, founding member and first captain of Pioneer Academy’s Speech and Debate team, said she “felt no different than usual.”

Principal Jason Zona said his students have risen to the occasion after so many challenges from COVID-19.

“I am so proud of our students and staff; we could see the love and support from their families who filled the community center on Wednesday at graduation,” Zona said. “It always amazes me how 43 graduates walking on stage can overfill a theater of 580 capacity with friends and families and Pioneer alumni. It is an overwhelmingly positive experience, and the support was palpable.

“I am truly blessed to work with such a talented group of educators and the families that choose Pioneer Academy to find something different, unique and customized to individual students for education options in Carson City.”

Zona added Pioneer continues to add to its curriculum and make it flexible for students to suit their needs and that he was proud of them for earning Millennium, Promise and local scholarships for the college or work pathways they choose.

“Our community rallied to support our students and we thank parents, guardians, families, and our team at Pioneer Academy. It is absolutely a team effort,” he said. “We have assembled the most talented and caring team of educators to make a safe and nurturing environment at Pioneer, and this is evident in student surveys and our graduation rates. Our students often go on to careers in medical technology, art, graphic design, military, education and jobs in the local community.”

Superintendent Andrew Feuling shook students’ hands on stage as students received their diplomas.

“I’m so happy for all these kids that they’ve made it across the stage and now have this opportunity to make the best out of life that they can and see what comes their way,” he said. “You have these 40-plus kids that have managed to navigate all (the challenges) and make the best of it and yet they’ve managed to set up themselves up for success, and I wish them all the best in that adventure.”


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