“They’re really excited and really proud,” Koptke said Tuesday. “I’m nervous because I don’t know what to expect,” she added of being her family’s first college student.
Koptke was among the four high school students from Sparks and 22 total local seniors to receive scholarships from John Ascuaga’s Nugget on Tuesday. All winners will receive a total of $1,000, based on continued enrollment and maintaining a minimum grade-point standard. Applications were reviewed by the Nugget Scholarship Committee and evaluated on scholastic achievement, financial need, community involvement and extra-curricular activities. Since 1956, the Nugget’s scholarship program has awarded more than $400,000 to nearly 500 area students. Past winners can be seen in an interactive kiosk located in the Nugget’s hotel lobby.
“Out of all the things the Nugget does with the community, this is the one we’re most proud of,” said Mike Traum, spokesman for the Nugget. “Years later we get letters from recipients thanking (the Ascuagas) for helping their college dreams come true.”
A slideshow of past recipients and their letters of thanks played as the 2009 recipients and their families gathered for Tuesday lunch at the Nugget’s Poolside Terrace. As she waited for lunch to be served, Koptke said she will be comforted by the fact that her lifelong best friend will also be attending UNR and taking some classes with her. A three-year varsity cheerleader, Honor Society member and prom committee member, Koptke said she plans to major in clinical psychology because she is interested in people.
Another Sparks High student, Mayra Ramirez, was also among the recipients. The 18-year-old Ramirez was also an Honor Society and prom committee member, in addition to being saludatorian and co-president of the Sparks High Hispanic club. She will also be attending UNR on the Millennium Scholarship and will be studying biology. Ramirez said her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, are very proud of her because she is getting the education they could not.
“I’m really excited and a little anxious to be doing something new,” Ramirez said. “I’m really happy to start my future.”
Also attending UNR but with an undecided major is Laurel Cooney, a senior at Spanish Springs High School who was also among the Nugget scholarship winners. Cooney said she has considered engineering, but then realized she didn’t want to do all the math and science. She said she might study nursing for social work because, “I like doing things with people.”
Cooney, who served as vice president of her senior class, said she is both excited and nervous about graduating since she knows she will never see some of her high school classmates again.
“I’m sure I’ll cry at graduation like a baby, but that’s OK,” she said with a laugh.
The final Sparks recipient was Kylie Sertic of Reed High School. She is planning to attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. to study international relations with an emphasis on Asian languages.
“In the United States, we seem to think it’s us and Europe, when there’s China and India and places like that are becoming more important,” Sertic said, “so I want to be there to make sure our relations are going well.”
Sertic was vice president of the Young Democrats at Reed and, upon turning 18, celebrated her birthday by registering with the party. At Reed she participated in the academic Olympics and was a member of the We The People constitutional knowledge team that placed 20th overall at the national competition in Washington, D.C. this spring.
As for going far way to college, Sertic said she had mixed emotions.
“I’m kind of nervous about being away from my family and people I know, but I have one friend going with me (to college) so that makes it easier,” she said. “Right now, I’m more excited.”
Below is a list of all the Nugget’s 2009 scholarship recipients:
Jessica Marie Koptke – Sparks High School
Cody Kiser – Dayton High School
Ariel Endacott – Churchill County High School
Kayla Herrera – Bishop Manogue High School
Charmayne Pommerening – Smith Valley High School
Kylie Sertic – Reed High School
Craig Nelson – Pershing County High School
Mercy Gbenjo – North Valleys High School
Mayra Ramirez – Sparks High School
Sophie Glogovac – Virginia City High School
Madison Baker – Wooster High School
Alexander Wilson – Reno High School
Andrea Pham – Wooster High School
Angelica Gurrola – Hug High School
Andi Bolstad – Fernley High School
Laurel Cooney – Spanish Springs High School
Joshua Barbie – Carson High School
Edna Meza – Douglas High School
Hui Min Cao – McQueen High School
Michelle Rebaleati – Eureka County High School
Ashley Stein – Galena High School
Lauren Matthews – Damonte Ranch High School