Silver State grads embrace opportunity | NevadaAppeal.com

Silver State grads embrace opportunity

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

Lianza Yap’s parents brought her and her brother to the United States from the Philippines when she was 11 to give them a better life.

And Lianza has taken advantage of every opportunity afforded her. The 17-year-old graduated from Silver State Charter High School on Thursday after just three years. Not only was she a year ahead of schedule, but she was also class valedictorian.

“I’ve just always liked school,” she explained. “I knew I could do it, so I challenged myself.”

Her life has not been without struggle. In addition to having to learn a new culture when she immigrated, her father died shortly after they arrived.

“By my 12th birthday, I had experienced the best moment in my life and the worst,” she said. “I learned the future isn’t absolute.”

Lianza said she owed it to her mother to be successful.

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“My mom is so proud,” she said.

Lianza will start this fall at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she wants to pursue a degree in medicine.

She joined her 64 classmates in graduation ceremony Thursday evening at the Carson City Community Center.

Silver State Superintendent Steve Knight acknowledged the transition the students went through this year as the hybrid online school moved from a strip mall on North Carson Street, where the school has been housed since its inception in 2003, to its new home in a nearly 40,000-square-foot building on Mallory Way.

“These graduates have adapted and embraced the changes,” he said.

He urged them to continue to adapt to the changes life would bring.

“You are the generation who will take over and lead,” he said. “Prepare yourselves.”

The night marked a new beginning for Silver State Charter High School’s Class of 2012 – a beginning fraught with excitement and trepidation.

“I’m a little scared for the future,” said Shawn Judd, 18. “I joined the Army National Guard, so I’ll be facing deployment.”

For Amanda Morgan, 18, it was a defining moment. She added high school graduate to her other titles: newlywed and mother.

“For me, it’s really important because a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to,” she said. “But I’m graduating on time and with good grades.”

While balancing a family and school has been difficult, she credits her husband with giving her the encouragement needed to be successful.

“There were a lot of times I would stop and cry and think ‘I can’t do this,'” she said. “But he always told me I could.”

She’s already earned her phlebotomist license and plans to attend Arizona State University in the fall of 2013 to pursue a career as a registered nurse.

She hopes to set an example for her 2-year-old daughter, Melody.

“Even though I’m a young mother, I’m not going to let anything hold me back,” she said.

Sheriff Ken Furlong, in his keynote address, told graduates and guests about the hopes he’d thought he’d lost forever when his daughter succumbed to drug addiction. But she cleaned up her life and graduated from Western Nevada College two weeks ago.

“I held back the proud tears and the deepest emotion as she walked across the stage in her cap and gown,” he said. “This, tonight, is that moment for your families. You have made them so proud.”

Salutatorian Sean Merritt told fellow graduates to carry that moment forward.

“Make life memorable,” he advised.