Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
A pair of students who have been best friends since sixth grade will share the stage as the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Fernley High School Class of 2017.
Valedictorian Grace DeLeon and Salutatorian Sam Wright will lead the FHS Class of 2017 as they receive their diplomas at the graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday on the FHS football field.
DeLeon and Wright said they pushed and encouraged each other throughout their middle school and high school years, and credit each other for the success they have had.
“It’s positive competition,” DeLeon said. “We help each other. If you don’t have a person to push you, then you’ll settle.”
“It’s not malicious,” Wright added. “We both equally want to be as successful as each other. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without Grace.”
Both students have excelled in academics, athletics and in volunteer activities, and they both said the key is to manage time effectively.
“I don’t think it’s that hard if you know how to manage your time,” DeLeon said. “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed up past 10 o’clock doing homework.”
“Write down what you need to do,” Wright said. “There’s 24 hours in a day, so use them all.”
Valedictorian Grace DeLeon
The daughter of Ana Rivera, DeLeon is graduating with a weighted grade point average of 4.48 and an unweighted GPA of 3.8.
She has served as class president during her freshman, junior and senior years, was part of the National Honor Society for three years, including as vice president this year and participated in cross country, basketball and track for four years each, earning 12 varsity letters.
Within the NHS, she participated in many volunteer activities including at BeeHive Homes and with the FHS Service Wall, as a freshman and sophomore she volunteered as the mascot at East Valley Elementary School for school assemblies and events and since sixth grade has volunteered with the Lyon County Special Olympics at Fernley Intermediate School.
DeLeon came to Fernley in first grade and attended Cottonwood Elementary, then attended East Valley from second through fifth grade, Fernley Intermediate School in sixth grade, then Silverland Middle school for seventh and eighth grades.
DeLeon also made it through all four years of high school with perfect attendance.
“When I was a freshman, there was a girl who had perfect attendance and it was announced at an assembly where they gave her an iPad, and I said that’s going to be me,” DeLeon said.
In athletics, DeLeon was named one the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Top 10 Student-Athletes in Northern Nevada, she was named honorable mention all-league as a junior in basketball and to the all-league second team as a senior, received honorable mention in cross country.
She received her associate’s degree through the Western Nevada College Jump Start program on May 22 and was on the Dean’s List at WNC in both years of the program.
DeLeon described herself as a self-motivated person, and said she learned through sports that if you work hard, you can achieve your goals,
“I don’t think I’m the smartest person in our school, but I study, I ask for help when I need it and I spend time in the career center,” she said.
DeLeon said her favorite class at FHS was history.
“I want to study civil rights, and there’s just an infinite amount of things to learn,” she said.
DeLeon said physical education teacher Ross Wilson and his wife, registrar Teresa Wilson, have been highly influential in her life.
“Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have been a major help to my success,” she said. “Mrs. Wilson in the counseling office, I’m in there almost every day asking her to print out scholarships, and Mir. Wilson, as a coach and teacher, is someone I can go to for help with anything from sports, school or personal problems.”
DeLeon will be attending St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif. where she will run cross country and track. She plans to study business administration, then wants to go to law school and become a civil rights attorney.
“I have my long term goal all planned out by the time I’m 26 to have my MBA in business administration and be a practicing lawyer,” DeLeon said.
Salutatorian Sam Wright
Wright, the son of Todd Wright and Shannon Jansen, is graduating with a weighted GPA of 4.43 and unweighted GPA of 3.8.
He also received his associate’s degree from Western Nevada College through the Jump Start Program.
He has been part of the National Honor Society for two years, serving as the Sergeant at Arms this year. He has been part of the Student Council for four years, as student body secretary last year and vice president this year.
He played four years of varsity soccer and competed in track for four years.
Like DeLeon, Wright participated in many volunteer activities through NHS, including at BeeHive Homes and with the FHS Service Wall, and volunteered with the Lyon County Special Olympics at Fernley Intermediate School.
Wright was awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award pin and as a sophomore won both the Principal’s Award and Student Leader Award.
In track, he was also made the academic all-state team all four years.
Wright attended Fernley schools since kindergarten, going from Fernley Elementary School, Fernley Intermediate, Silverland Middle School and Fernley High School.
Wright said being one of the top graduates has been his goal since he saw valedictorian Daniel Putney made a speech in 2014.
“I remember he was a cool kid, super smart and all around, and I said I want to be like that,” Wright said.
Like DeLeon Wright said Ross and Teresa Wilson, and counselor Kiara Stone, have been his biggest influences at FHS.
“Mrs. Stone, helped me with scholarships and I talk to her about a lot of things,” Wright said. “She’s involved in a lot of things.”
Wright said he liked his science classes the most, especially Jody Ericksen’s chemistry class.
Wright plans to attend the University of Oregon to study human physiology, then go to medical school. He said he is interested in going into cardiac medicine, or maybe becoming a surgeon.
“I feel like I’ve always wanted to help people,” he said. “As a kid, whatever I did, I wanted to help people.”
Photos courtesy Grace DeLeon