Woolsey, Albarran lead FHS class of 2024

Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

A pair of Western Nevada College Jump Start graduates who are both set to attend the University of Nevada, Reno lead the Fernley High School graduating Class of 2024.

The Class of 2024 entered high school in the midst of a pandemic, but each graduate has overcome those obstacles and will celebrate their commencement at 7 p.m. Friday, June 14 on the Fernley High School football field.

Valedictorian Emma Woolsey

The daughter of Rebekah and William Woolsey, Emma Woolsey ranks first in the class of 2024 with a weighted grade point average of 4.7. She graduated from WNC with an associates of science degree on May 23. She plans to attend UNR in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and eventually go to grad school in research.


During her time in high school, most of Woolsey’s extracurricular activities were through the Jump Start program. She was on the Fernley High School academic team, and through WNC she was part of a NASA program performing biomedical research on gene editing of E coli and was part of a robotics team that built a survey submersible machine.

“It is programed to go to a certain depth and take pictures and record data about pressure and temperature,” Woolsey said. “Right now, we’re doing pool testing on it, but eventually they’re hoping to get all the research over to NASA. Eventually they want to put it in Tahoe.”

Woolsey won’t be involved with the project after graduation, but plans to keep track of its progress.

She was also a part of the National Honor Society since her sophomore year.

Outside of school, Woolsey has been a member of 4-H for 11 years, was active in her church youth group, and performed community service through 4-H and NHS, as well as a volunteer for the Mayor’s Clean Sweep every year.

Woolsey has lived in Fernley all her life and attended Fernley schools starting in first grade at East Valley Elementary School, then attended Fernley Intermediate, Silverland Middle and Fernley High Schools. She attended pre-K and kindergarten at a private school in Fallon.

She said she’s always enjoyed living in Fernley because she has a lot of family here.

Despite ranking atop her class, Woolsey said it was never a goal to be the valedictorian. She said she was unaware of her class ranking until she saw it on her transcript when she was submitting her application to UNR at the end of the last semester.

“But once I found out at the beginning of this one, I wanted to keep it,” she said.

Woolsey said it was difficult being involved in so many demanding activities along with participating in the dual credit Jump Start program.

“It’s mostly about the time management, I guess,” she said. “It’s not too bad if you don’t put everything off until the end, but you have to make sure you’re keeping track of all the assignments, all the dates, and budgeting enough time for everything.”

Woolsey said most of her favorite memories about high school are related to Jump Start. Students in the program spend their academic time apart from the rest of the student body, and she said each member can decide how involved in school activities they want to be.

“We had a little group and we ate lunch in the classroom together, so we had a little fun studying for our tests, talking about our grades,” she said. “It just became a little family, a little cohort.”

She said her first year in the program the group of 16 students was together, but the second year, they were split up based on the degree they were each pursuing.

“I think if you want to be involved with the rest of the student body it’s easy to continue doing that, but if you don’t, it’s also easy to let yourself pull back from that,” she said. “I stayed close to the people I wanted to with my classes, the Honor Society, but the people I did not want to see, it was not an issue.”

Woolsey said her favorite teacher at FHS was Amy Weishahn who teaches French, watercolors and is the honor society instructor.

“I had French 1 online the first semester, so I came into French 2 knowing almost nothing,” Woolsey said. “I was really behind, but she didn’t quit on me. She kept pushing me through that class. I ended up the second semester, I think I got one of the highest grades in the class and I really recovered my French skills, and she made an effort with my family through the honor society.”

In her free time, Woolsey said she likes to take care of her pets, and her interest in science has landed her a research opportunity this summer that will take her to the University of California, Berkeley.

“We kind of live on a farm so we have a lot of pets, and I’m very into science, this is helping me get a research opportunity from UNR,” she said. “So, once I go up there, I will be working in their neuroscience lab and over the summers I will be doing research for neuroscience in other places.”

Woolsey said if she were to advise incoming freshmen about how to make the most of high school, she would tell them to not rush through it.

“Take your time, enjoy the people you’re around, make friends, but don’t get so consumed in the school part of it,” she said.

The Class of 2024 were freshmen when school reopened in the fall of 2020. That had many of them attending school entirely online for a year, while others were attending school in split cohorts where they were in class for a week, then online for a week. Woolsey attended school entirely online as a freshman and she said that made for a difficult transition when she returned in person as a sophomore.

“I was really struggling with mental health and making friends. I had some that I kept from eighth grade but making more friends, getting back into being at school that first year was really difficult,” she said. “I had to focus on something, so I was keeping up on my grades, getting my schoolwork done. I tried going to more of the school things, so I went to football games, that type of thing.”

Woolsey said her motivation to succeed comes from her family.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am without them,” she said. “They’ve just kept on me about my grades and pushed me to, I guess, make the most of the opportunities that have been handed to me even when I don’t necessarily want to or they make me uncomfortable.”

Woolsey summed up her high school experience as chaotic, but said it helped her determine her path. Before starting high school, she thought she wanted to be a social worker.

“I didn’t see any of this coming when I went into high school,” she said. “I had no idea that this is where I would be now and I didn’t think that I’d have the opportunities that I do or the passion for what I’m doing that I have now, so it’s definitely helped me figure out my way.”

Salutatorian Selena Albarran

The daughter of Erika and Marco Albarran, Selena Albarran has a weighted grade point average of 4.6.

She also graduated from the Jump Start program on May 23 with an associate of arts degree. She plans to attend UNR and pursue her bachelor’s degree in psychology, then go to grad school to be a neuropsychologist.

While in high school, Albarran was involved in Upward Bound for four years and has been involved in FHS leadership for three years, serving as historian last year and as student body vice president this year. She also served this year as the Western Region representative on the Nevada Association of Student Councils.

NASC operates under the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and hosts conferences and competitions where members compete for awards.

Through FHS leadership, Albarran was part of a group of students who went to Fernley Elementary School on Fridays to do mentoring activities as rewards for the elementary students.

Albarran moved to Fernley in eighth grade, a month before the Covid pandemic began, shutting down schools for the rest of the year. Her dad serves as a recruiter in the U.S. Army and prior to moving to Fernley, the family lived in Washington, Texas and California.

“I liked it a lot,” she said. “I found the small community charm to be really cool and I have a lot of family here too.”

Like Woolsey, Albarran said she was unaware of her rank among her graduating class until she was contacted by principal Ryan Cross to do an interview about it.

“I knew I was in there somewhere, but I was like, I’m just going to try my best,” she said. “It wasn’t a goal, necessarily.”

Albarran said her key to handling all of her activities and assignments was to stay organized and write things down so she didn’t forget something important.

“And another big thing is to make time for myself,” she said. “I try to schedule things on weekdays and take the weekends to relax and make sure you don’t burn yourself out.”

While Woolsey immersed herself in Jump Start, Albarran said her experience in the program was much different than Woolsey’s because she chose to remain more involved with the student body.

“I’m in here a lot with student council and leadership,” she said. “It was easier for me to stay involved and to stay around, so it’s definitely possible.”

Albarran said her favorite teacher was Jackie Kingston, the photography, yearbook and leadership teacher.

“Just from the beginning, even when I was new to leadership, you kind of start where you’re helping with things and then move up to where you’re ready for a position and then you get to do more advanced things,” Albarran said. “From the beginning, I feel like she just always believed in me.”

In her spare time, Albarran likes to read and watch movies and she is proud to be a finalist for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

“I take pride in my culture and heritage,” she said.

Albarran said her advice for incoming freshmen would be to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

“Because when you feel like you have a purpose, you can have a strong sense of belonging, and that’s a great thing to have wherever you go,” she said.

Being a new student when school shut down during the pandemic her eighth grade year, Albarran was still essentially a new student when school reopened.

“I think it affected me severely in the aspect of being social and making friends,” she said. “I feel like when I came back I was just pushing myself more to do things that at the moment probably made me uncomfortable, like trying out for the basketball team, going to leadership, but in the end it all gave me a pivotal moment of what was right for me and what wasn’t.”

Albarran said her motivation comes from her mom and dad.

“They have just sacrificed so much for me that I want to continue to make them proud and hopefully someday repay them in the future as an adult,” she said.

Albarran said high school has been challenging.

“But in the end, I think it’s very beautiful how much everything has changed,” she said. “Change can be scary, but I think it needs to happen for the better.”

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