Dayton grads travel down the aisle |

Dayton grads travel down the aisle

by Heather Swanson
For the Nevada Appeal

photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Dayton senior Teryn Kukuk, 17, gives her 3-year-old brother Michael a kiss after he brought her an apple during graduation ceremonies at Dayton High School at the football field on Thursday.

DAYTON – Israel Covarrubias traveled a long road to graduation night at Dayton High School.

The journey, in fact, was approximately 3,000 miles. Transferring to a Nevada school from his native Florida less than two years ago may have been a challenge for the 18-year-old, but that hasn’t slowed him in his plans.

“I’m going straight to UNR (University of Nevada, Reno),” Covarrubias said before the graduation ceremony on Thursday. Though the young graduate says he has not yet decided what he will study, civil engineering is a likely choice.

The Millennium Scholar and recipient of a $22,500 Mary Orcutt Memorial Scholarship admits high school was not all fun and games. A native Spanish speaker, Covarrubias says that while he mastered English many years ago, being a minority presented some challenges.

Many minorities drop out early, Covarrubias said, adding the draw of gangs and drugs may be stronger. “But I stayed out of it,” he said. “I like learning. I wanted to go as far as I could.”

Covarrubias says he is excited to be a graduate. “I’ve been waiting for a long time,” he said.

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While Covarrubias may have traveled the farthest to reach graduation, his class valedictorian is headed quite a distance for college. Melissa Karges, 17, plans to attend Concordia, in Irvine, Calif., where she received a $19,000 scholarship. Like her classmate, she is still unsure where her studies will take her, but says she is considering sports medicine.

“I’ve really been involved in sports,” Karges said. “It’s just something I really enjoy.”

Karges says that while she’s sad to leave her friends (most of whom will attend UNR), she’s looking forward to the future.

“I just want to go start something,” she said.

Salutatorian Stephanie Greer is also headed to California for college. Greer will attend Biola University in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of several scholarships, including an $8,000 yearly academic scholarship at her choice university.

California, however, is hardly the farthest afield the young woman has traveled. Greer worked at a free medicine camp in Nairobi, Kenya, last summer.

“It was intense,” she said of the journey. Greer said that while she enjoyed her time in Africa, it was a sobering experience. For many of the people she helped, it was their first time seeing a doctor, Greer said.

Though not all of Dayton High School’s graduating class of 142 may be as well traveled, Vice Principal Cory Sandberg expresses little doubt in their abilities.

“Overall it’s just a really talented group,” Sandberg said. The students excelled both academically and athletically, he says. “And they take pride in what they do.”

He added, “They’re a very involved group of kids.”

The school’s principal agrees.

“I believe I’m the luckiest principal in all of Nevada,” José Delfin said to the graduates during his opening address. “We’ve seen you grow into talented and intelligent young men and women.”