Pump and circumstance: for the class of 22, resilience is the name of the game

Nevada Union graduates cheer on during Saturday morning’s promotion ceremony at Hooper Stadium in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

It was a busy week for area high schools who promoted their respective senior graduating classes.

Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden acknowledged that due to the ongoing global pandemic, this year’s class stands out for its resilience and willingness to weather uncertain times.

“Last year’s challenge was unlike anything I had seen,” McFadden said, “and there was nothing to compare it to. I have a mentor who is a retired superintendent and she said, ‘What advice can I give you?’ Because none of us had been through this before. The start of the pandemic and all these unknown changing conditions, (learning) about the virus, changing responses to it, changing expectations…”

Bear River Class of 2022 majors wave to the crowd as they are recognized for their accomplishments.
Photo: Elias Funez

“I don’t think we give enough credit to our teachers and even our site administrators for how we have led the way in this area.”

Orma Jean Forest graduated from Ghidotti Early College High School on Wednesday and said her high school experience was challenging but equally rewarding.

“I think Ghidotti’s teachers did a great job of understanding that it was difficult, but I think it has to do with (the student). Applying to college made it more daunting,” said Forest, who also served as her school’s associate student body president.

Crowd members applaud their graduate as their name is announced during Saturday morning’s graduation from Nevada Union High School.
Photo: Elias Funez

Forest will attend the University of California, Santa Cruz this fall, where she plans to double major in psychology and sociology, a path she says was set in motion by her experience at Ghidotti.

“I think what makes Ghidotti so amazing is the staff. They are so excited to teach. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I couldn’t have had four better years.


Michelle O’Shea is an instructional guide at the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning (SAEL), where she has noticed the resilience and determination of her students.

Bear River graduates approach the football field for Friday night’s promotion ceremony.
Photo: Elias Funez

“Once we moved to remote learning, kids everywhere were challenged,” O’Shea said. “We have kids who weren’t looking for a high school experience that involved sitting in front of a screen and there were a lot of limitations even on practical things.”

SAEL offers an alternative education model. Students are hands-on, hands-on, and highly collaborative. O’Shea said 70% of his class plans to continue their education.

“I love my kids graduating so much. I’m so proud. They’re so wonderful,” she said.

Student speakers performed songs at the Nevada Union graduation on Saturday morning.
Photo: Elias Funez

One of O’Shea’s students, Abigail Richards, said: “As a school, they taught me that I could do more than I thought I could. They taught me that there is no challenge that I don’t have the tools and skills to meet. I am forever grateful for the lessons of resilience they taught me.

“COVID was a big part of our lives for two years,” said Richards’ classmate Ava Roos. “We had to adapt and learn to deal with loss, isolation and a completely different world to the one we grew up in. It was tough, but it ultimately made me more flexible and able to adapt to tough situations. It’s been hard to watch with so many horrible things going on in the world. I think it’s made me more open to other perspectives, just because of all the division in the world. We must be able to see the other side of the argument.


Anthony Pritchett is now a graduate of Nevada Union High School and will attend the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. Pritchett was elected by his peers throughout the district to serve as a student adviser on the district board of trustees.

A Bear River graduate looks out at the audience during Friday night’s graduation in South County.
Photo: Elias Funez

“There are so many clichés,” Pritchett said of his recent promotion, “but this is a new chapter in our lives. Everything we’ve known is going to fade away soon, but I can’t wait to be there The community here is very strong, but it’s time to branch out.

“For this class, in particular, there was a lot of resilience and perseverance from everyone involved. It was not an easy four years, and all the kids deserved their diplomas and graduation ceremonies.

Rebecca Bromm, also a Nevada Union graduate, said the pandemic had been difficult for her class, but ultimately provided a rewarding experience.

Nevada Union High School graduates accept their diplomas and return to their seats at Saturday’s ceremony.
Photo: Elias Funez

“I think the pandemic has given a lot of us a new appreciation for being in a real classroom,” Bromm said. “A fond high school memory for me was at the beginning of my senior year when I found a wonderful group of friends after being isolated for two years. I hadn’t known this group for a long time, but one day, we played cards at lunch and we laughed a lot. It was the first time I had experienced real laughter and happiness in a long time.

O’Shea said his advice to graduating classes is simple.

“My advice would be to give each other a lot of credit and a lot of grace for what their high school experience was like and the fact that they overcame that,” she said. “And to recognize that they have different and stimulating learning experiences.

“Stay curious, and if you can find what you love to learn and use the tools you have to continue understanding that, be a lifelong learner.”

Jennifer Nobles is a writer for The Union. She can be contacted at [email protected]

A student speaker from the Class of 2022 at Bear River High School addresses the graduating class Friday night at Bear River High School.
Photo: Elias Funez

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