Douglas grads embark on their beginning |

Douglas grads embark on their beginning

2016 DHS graduates toss their morterboards into the air at the conclusion of graduation ceremonies Thursday in Minden.
Brad Coman |

Minden, Nev. — Douglas High School’s Class of 2016 was given an opportunity to reflect on its past, present and future as the sun began to set on a sunny and breezy Thursday afternoon.

For Pablo Laird, it came all together suddenly when he marched into the Big George Athletic venue with about 400 classmates.

“It was very emotional,” said Laird, who attended 13 years of school in Douglas County. “During the day when we went through rehearsal, I didn’t feel like I was graduating. Then tonight, I was sitting with my best friend as my walking partner, I just looked around and was like, ‘This is it. This is the last time I see all these people.’ It was sad. It was good, though, to see all the people that I knew from kindergarten go up on the stage.”

Laird plans to attend Western Nevada College the next two years in hopes of becoming a machinist and in time owning his own business. On this day, however, he had good reason to feel emotion since a high school diploma was only assured one day before after he passed a test in his oceanography class.

“I was super nervous because I didn’t think I was going to graduate, but I busted it this past week, got everything done and pulled it out. When I found out I was graduating, I just saw the diploma and I was like, ‘I made it.’ I was overwhelmed with joy.”

Principal Marty Swisher acknowledged the efforts of all the elementary and middle school staffs who worked with the students along their road to graduation day.

“We know that it has taken many people working together to bring our graduates to this day,” he said. “The quality education they have received for most members of this class. All have prepared our students for the important opportunities and achievement they have had at Douglas High.”

Senior Grace Gautereaux saluted fellow classmates — “Here’s to you” — as she offered a reminder of how it wasn’t so long ago they entered high school and began to learn their way through a congested hallway during passing period.

“Some of us are scared and some of us are still finding ourselves, but all of us made an impact,” she said. “As we go out into the world, we expand our ability to impact others and stimulate change. We all have different paths before us, just as we have different battles to fight. So as you follow your own path and fight new battles, just remember, you are not alone. You, the oncoming star and the tightrope walker, the stars and the night sky and the missing puzzle pieces, this is to you. And may it only be the beginning.”

Swisher introduced the class valedictorian, Kaleb Morris, and salutatorian, Koby Hinnant, with some glossy statistics. Stanford University-bound Morris was a straight-A student all four years on his way to a weighted 4.56 grade point average. Hinnant, who has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, checked in with a 4.47. Both were standout athletes (Hinnant a four-year varsity letterman in soccer, Morris a state qualifier in cross country and track). They were also teammates on a Douglas academic team that placed fourth in February at the Nevada Regional Science Bowl in Las Vegas.

The valedictorian and salutatorian spoke to classmates jointly and shared some light moments along the way, including an admission by Morris of how they were working on the speech at 2:30 that same morning.

“There’s one thing that we must do that won’t necessarily guarantee success, but will surely increase our chances, and that is working to the absolute best of our abilities,” Morris said. “Given the circumstances of the world that we are entering, we can’t have any expectations of hoping to get what we want from it without going out and putting our abilities to the test so that we can be our absolute best.”

And then Hinnant offered one final piece of advice that drew a loud round of applause, and a few chuckles, from the audience: “Personally, I feel this is quite possibly the Holy Grail of the advice that we produce … now this almost goes without saying, but often people forget, so I feel like I should make a point of it … make sure to brush your teeth twice a day … and get those gums, too.”