Alternative path to success |

Alternative path to success

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal Jose Galvan, who never thought he'd finish high school, will be one of four students to receive special honors at Pioneer High School's graduation Tuesday evening.

A smile grows across José Galvan’s face as Principal Mark Van Voorst tells him he will be one of four students to receive special honors at Pioneer High School’s graduation Tuesday evening.

Two years ago, Galvan, 18, never thought he’d finish high school, not just because he was credit deficient, but also because he was battling methamphetamine.

“It’s shocking,” he said. “I didn’t know about this. It’s great.”

This year, the alternative high school will graduate 32 seniors, six more than last year.

“The students don’t all come here as freshmen,” Van Voorst said. “They come here at various stages of their high school career.”

Galvan, who has been clean for 16 months, transferred to Pioneer in January 2005 – midway through his junior year.

“A lot of things brought me here,” he said. “First, I didn’t have enough credits at Carson High. I messed up. Some of my friends used to come to Pioneer. They said it wasn’t easier, but it would help get my credits up.”

Galvan didn’t wanted to go to night school as one counselor once suggested. He wanted to complete a traditional high school. Pioneer, which receives more applications than spots available, allows students to complete eight credit hours a year, unlike six at a traditional high school.

The applicants most often accepted at Pioneer talk about how they want a smaller school, need more attention, or can’t seem to find their way at a larger high school.

“The teachers (here), they give you more one-on-one attention,” Galvan said. “You can ask more questions. The counselors, they give me a lot of choices what I can do. I met a lot of people who can help me.”

Their school is small, with just four full-time teachers and about 100 students. Students are on a regular bell schedule and have more flexibility, as do their teachers, for in-depth projects, like going to the Carson River for a large part of the day to study river life. Instead of block days and two semesters, Pioneer offers four periods daily and four quarters a year.

“An alternative environment only means it’s an alternative environment,” Van Voorst said. “All the same standards are being met here as at a different high school, it’s just being done in a different way.”

Galvan was one of four students nominated by teachers for special honors in a specific subject – in his case, science. The teachers set the criteria for nominations.

At graduation, Galvan, Stephanie Morse (social studies), Ysabel Ramos (math) and Madisyn Morrison (English) will receive special cords to wear with their robes.

Galvan has already taken a machine-tooling technology class at Western Nevada Community College and thinks he wants to start Universal Technical Institute in Sacramento some time after graduation.

He loves his 1998 black Jetta, and he’s put speaker systems in that and his dad’s Ford Explorer.

“I might get into collision repair or become an audio tech,” he said. “Hopefully, along the way, I’ll open my own business up, selling stereo systems or anything to do with cars.”

His parents – whom he says are very proud of him – sister and brother all plan to attend his graduation at the Carson City Community Center.

“I didn’t think I was going to graduate from this high school or any other high school,” he said. “Everybody here gave me a piece of advice what to do, and that helped me a lot.”

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.