The start of something big |

The start of something big

David Mirhadi
Appeal City Editor
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Carson High School's class of 2008 throws their caps in the air after being announced graduates on the Carson High School football field on Saturday. For more photos from the graduation visit and click on photo galleries. A complete list of graduates appear on A11.

This is it for Larry Staggs.

His youngest child, Daniel, graduated Saturday, from Carson High School.

This would be the last time Dad would stand on the football field at the crowded stadium, cheering on one of his children into the real world.

And as senior class president Nicole Carlevato’s microphone mysteriously cut out for 10 minutes during her speech to the class of 2008, Larry found the words to describe his son’s accomplishments.

“This is my last child graduating, and they’re all military people just like me,” Larry said. “All my kids wanted to be in the military, just like Dad.”

Daniel Staggs will follow his father, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam from 1964-70, into the military. He leaves June 30 for Army boot camp in Montana, and the start of the rest of his life.

Under blue, peaceful skies occasionally streaked with vintage aircraft, hundreds of blue and white-clad seniors prepared for adulthood, while some family members and students simply marveled at how fast the time passed.

“For most of us, we are leaving behind everything that is comfortable and known, into the unknown,” Carlevato told the crowd, following the microphone malfunction.

Carlevato drew cheers and hoots when she recalled how, during their first rally as freshmen in 2004, the Class of 2008 implored the Class of 2004 to “drop out seniors, drop out.”

Carlevato asked the students to challenge themselves. “Find out who you are, and don’t be afraid of that.”

Michael Santoyo remembers that first rally well.

“We were all small back then,” said the graduate, who plans to attend Western Nevada College in a few months. “I’m just glad we got it over with.”

Graduate Philip O’Neill sometimes wondered if he would challenge himself enough to walk across Carson High’s football field.

“It’s been a bit stressful today, just like the last four years,” he said, wondering aloud if he would actually make it.

“I figured that in four, five, six years, I’d get it eventually,” he joked, rolling his eyes at his beaming mother and father.

Asked how he kept his son on a steady path, Philip’s father, Phil, laughed.

“Curfews at eight. He’s done very well for himself.”

“Now it’s party time,” said the younger O’Neill, who will attend Western Nevada College in the fall.

Jennifer Renee Warner’s path to graduation was challenging, too, for different reasons.

Mom Laura Fitzgerald said she raised Jennifer as a single mom for most of her life.

“She’s just struggled in learning who she is, like most teenagers do, but she’s going to be great,” grandmother Ruth Fitzgerald said.

Laura Fitzgerald will be bidding goodbye to her daughter soon, as Jennifer plans to enlist in the Navy on Monday. Eventually, Jennifer would like to be a teacher.

Numerous members of her family, including her stepfather, uncle, and longtime friends and neighbors made sure she got a good start on Saturday.

“Just put in there in big bold letters that her family loves her and supports her, and we’ll be there for her no matter what,” her mother said.

• Contact City Editor David Mirhadi at (775) 881-1261 or

See our Web site for more pictures and a list of graduates: