Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Fernley’s Hallie Jim and Wadsworth’s Elizabeth Hardin headed the Pyramid Lake High School Class of 2017 as co-valedictorians at its graduation ceremony June 9.
They were also the school’s first two students to graduate from Western Nevada College through the Jump Start program, and both leave a legacy for younger students to follow, said Senior Class Advisor Ray Charles.
Jim and Hardin both earned weighted grade point averages of 4.3, and each said they are proud to set an example for younger students and for Native American Youth.
Pyramid Lake High School Board Chairman Brian Wadsworth shared a similar message, urging the students to always be proud of who they are and where they come from. Wadsworth grew up on the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and went to school in Reno and said it took him a long time to feel proud of who he is.
“I felt embarrassed of being different and it’s taken me a long time to realize that you need to be proud of yourself,” he said. “I am proud of who I am, I’m proud of where I come from, I’m proud of being Cui Ui Dicutta and I want each and every one of you to realize that and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.”
Tribal Chairman Vinton Hawley referenced the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, about a young lady who decided to take her own life and 13 reasons why she reached that decision. Hawley used that as the basis for his 13 reasons why the students should live, and love and look forward to their future.
“The fact that you have all made it here tonight and are graduating high school conveys a sense of hope and that is the first reason why your graduation gives us hope for the future,” Hawley said.
The other reasons Hawley listed were friendship, opportunities, learning, community, culture, the unknown, love, Mother Earth, justice, sharing, resiliency, and a chance to be better than who you are right now.
“There are undoubtedly 300 more that we could have moved through tonight,” he said. “But I can tell you that my future is brighter knowing that you are out there and that you our next generation of leaders who will be here to lead the future of our nation here and your respective nations where you guys come from.”
Co-Valedictorian Hallie Jim
The granddaughter of Shirley and Hal Steel, Jim attended Pyramid Lake High School for the past two years. She attended elementary, intermediate and middle school in Fernley. She attended Fernley High School for two years before transferring to Pyramid Lake.
Jim was the school’s first member of the National Honor Society, and she was also the first member of the school’s girls golf team, which Charles began this season so she could continue the career she began at Fernley. She also played varsity basketball, and earned first-team all-conference honors this season.
As a member of the National Honor Society, Jim did two community service events together with her advisor and also volunteered at a youth conference, helping out with Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center and helped with fun runs and cleaning up the reservation.
Charles said Jim’s legacy at Pyramid Lake is the list of things she was first to accomplish.
“She definitely put her mark on Pyramid Lake as far as being a positive role model in our school,” Charles said.
Jim said her favorite high school class was environmental sciences, and said her favorite part of high school was all of the different coaches she had, and being able to play basketball and golf.
Jim said she has always done well academically, and she knew by the middle of the first semester last fall that she would rank either first or second in her graduating class.
“It was a huge goal,” Jim said. “When I started my junior year, I knew wanted to be top of my class.
Jim plans to attend UNLV to major in major in public health and minor in environmental science.
She credits her grandmother, Steel, as her primary source of motivation.
“She is a hard worker and she likes nice things, and that’s how I learned to work hard for what I want,” Jim said.
Jim spoke in her valedictory speech about feeling like she never fit in, either with other Native Americans because she didn’t grow up on the reservation, or with white people because of her Native heritage. But she told the graduates that she realized outside opinions don’t matter.
“You don’t need anybody’s acceptance, you don’t need to fit in anywhere,” she said. “The only person’s opinion that matters is yours, and I know that you all are going to do great things in life.”
Co-Valedictorian Elizabeth Hardin
The daughter of Gabe Hardin, stepmom Rhonda Hardin and mother Stacia Johnson, Elizabeth Hardin attended Pyramid Lake High School for four years after attending elementary and middle school in Fallon.
At Pyramid Lake, she was a member of the dance troupe and played volleyball, softball and basketball for four years each.
“Lizzie came here as a freshman and she has always been driven in her classes, she’s real good athlete, and she has good spirt about herself,” Charles said. “She works hard and she’s a great kid to have around our programs.”
Along with Jim, Hardin also earned her associate’s degree from Western Nevada College through the Jump Start program.
She said being named co-valedictorian was unexpected.
“I was very surprised, but in a way I wasn’t because I worked so hard for it,” she said.
Hardin said her favorite part of his school was having helpful teachers and being able to know all of her classmates, because the school was small.
She said she didn’t have a favorite class or teacher.
In her valedictory speech, Hardin thanked all of her family and friends for their support, and urged her classmates to look back and thank their families for the support behind their hard work and success.
Hardin said she is proud to set an example for Native American children.
“It’s great to make history like that, especially for the younger generation and my younger sister to see,” she said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
Hardin plans to attend college, but is still waiting on acceptance letters.
“I’m going to go to college and then on to my dream job as a nurse,” she said.