Six Warriors graduate Whittell

George Whittell High School’s six graduates Alekzander Lezama, Avi Rippet, Matthew Deaton, Ella Morettie, Sonnet Van Doren and Lisa Henry.

George Whittell High School’s six graduates Alekzander Lezama, Avi Rippet, Matthew Deaton, Ella Morettie, Sonnet Van Doren and Lisa Henry.
Photo by Sarah Drinkwine.

In 2020, 35 students entered their freshman year at George Whittell High School and at the June 13 commencement, only six will graduate as Warriors.

Principal Sean Ryan said the small class is in part a result of the Coronavirus.

“Many students left for other options during that time and since,” he said. “These guys really stuck it out and their parents too when there were other opportunities out there. They are true Zephyr Cove Warriors.”

Of Whittell high school’s 140 students, the 2024 class size looks to be an anomaly as the class of 2025 will have 25 graduates, just like the class of 2023. Looking down the class sizes, if all students stay in the district and at the Lake, there should be 14 in the class of 2026, 33 in the class of 2027, and 17 in the class of 2028.

The current senior class said they enjoyed their small numbers, and became a close group because of it.

“I think it’s really special,” said senior Avi Rippet. “Being part of a small community, we’ve grown close. It feels like we are family.”

Some other positives of a small class are being close to teachers, receiving a one-on-one experience, small teams, and a quieter environment.

“You really get the help you need,” said senior Ella Moretti. “The teachers know us and understand each of us individually.”

Matthew Deaton who relocated to the Lake from Douglas High school enjoyed the community feel at Whittell.

“At Douglas it felt like you were just a number,” he said, “here it’s like you are part of community.”

Whittell teacher Cathy Johnson said she’d been with some of the students since they were in sixth grade and will miss them.

“Graduation is an emotional time and it’s bittersweet to see them go,” she said. “You get to know so much about them, but you also wish them well in their futures.”

Ryan said all six of the graduates are athletes, and since there is no valedictorian, all six students will be honored for their academic achievements and will speak at graduation.


About the graduates

Matthew Deaton plans to join the marines after graduation, following the footsteps of his uncle who was also a marine.

Lisa Henry plans to study nursing at Western Nevada College and continue at the University of Nevada Reno. She said experiencing the care nurses gave her grandfather during his hospital visits, encouraged her to become a nurse as well.

Sonnet Van Doren is graduating a year early with an Associate of Science from Western Nevada College. She plans to study environmental engineering at Stanford University. She said after growing up in the Sierra, she wants to protect the environment and specialize in freshwater lakes. 

Avi Rippet is a native of Lake Tahoe and will be taking her future studies to San Diego State University. Having an entrepreneur interest since a young age and even starting her own conglomerate, Rippet will be studying business marketing.

Ella Moretti is also a Lake Tahoe native pursing an education at San Diego State University. Moretti said she has always had an interest in government and “likes to argue,” which encouraged her to pursue a pre-law degree.

Alekzander Lezama rounds off the graduating warriors as another Lake Tahoe native, returning to South Shore in fifth grade. His interests in designing and building gadgets, influenced his decision to study engineering at the University of Nevada Reno.

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