The Washoe County School District achieved its highest high school graduation rate ever with 75 percent of students in the class of 2015 earning diplomas, district officials said. That rate is 2 percentage points better than the class of 2014.
Sparks High School contributed significantly to the higher graduation rate, attracting specific attention from district officials for its gain.
District figures show Sparks High had a graduation rate of 74 percent, an increase of 6 percentage points from the 2014 class. In 2012, the school’s rate was 64 percent.
Reed High School’s graduation rate dipped, from 84 percent in 2014 to 81 percent for the class of 2015, while Spanish Springs High School’s rate remained unchanged at 81 percent.
District officials last week announced that all comprehensive high schools in the district have graduation rates higher than 70 percent, with most posting rates that exceed 80 percent. The district had nearly 3,500 graduates in 2015.
Sparks High School Principal Kevin Carroll attributed his school’s improvement “first and foremost to the hard work of our staff, teachers and administrators.”
Carroll also cited teacher collaboration among departments, a calendar that gives students the opportunity during winter, spring and summer breaks to retake courses and work on classes they are behind in. In addition, students can attend boot camps to help them pass proficiency tests, a graduation requirement.
Sparks High had 18 students use the summer break to complete their studies and graduate in August, the most in the district, he said.
One Sparks High student who is set to earn his diploma in June could have easily been on the wrong side of the graduation road, if not for his English teacher and a school counselor who noticed his spiral and encouraged him. Aizik Espinosa is now an example of what can happen with a nudge and some guidance.
During his sophomore year, his mom died from complications from diabetes and his grandmother died a month later, leaving him depressed and losing focus in his school work.
“Our family was just tearing apart for a while, so I was just really trying to focus on that, and school was not a priority at all,” Espinosa said during an interview. “My grades went down, which I wasn’t happy about. I wasn’t motivated. It’s like what’s the point.”
Espinosa, who was taking honors courses, found himself in danger of not graduating, with his grade-point average dropping to 1.4. His school counselor and his English teacher knew what was going on and didn’t turn away.
“They were just always there whenever I needed them and constantly checking up on me,” he said.
He also credited his dad for helping him talk through his feelings and then helping him with his homework.
After attending summer school, Espinosa has raised his grade-point average, enough so that he could join the cross-country team. His goal is get his GPA up to 3.25 by the end of the year.
“I’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. “My GPA is not nearly what I want it to be yet, and I still have my moments, but I’m working.”
And thanks to a little extra help, he has his sights set on studying art at the University of Nevada, Reno.
His simple message: Don’t give up. He remembers his dad telling him: “You can’t quit just because it gets hard.”