SPARKS — Spanish Springs High School senior Ryan Hopkins is no stranger to adversity. When looking back on his time in high school, Hopkins, 18, found that his perseverance and time management helped him fight through difficult times and will lead him to graduation on Saturday.
About one year ago Hopkins’ father died of lung and liver cancer, leaving him and his brother to fend for themselves.
“After his death, my brother and I were living on our own in the house, dealing with all of the chores, bills, pets and household maintenance,” Hopkins said. “On top of that, I had three Advanced Placement classes to work through, all while keeping a high grade point average.”
Hopkins said his new responsibilities have altered his daily life, but he finds it best to keep himself busy learning different subjects of study.
“I still am troubled with the loss of my father, but find it best to keep myself busy with music, school, and my favorite: teaching myself biochemistry and organic chemistry,” he said.
Hopkins’ school counselor, Lara Dreelan, commented on his ability to work through personal problems.
“Ryan’s ability to maintain his academics and deal with all that he had to face was amazing,” she said.
Hopkins recently performed in the school’s “Battle of the Bands,” which he said was “the most invigorating moment of my life.”
Hopkins plans to remain active, in mind, music and physicality, by continuing his education at the University of Nevada, Reno to major in organic chemistry or biochemistry. He hopes his degree will translate into becoming a strength and conditioning coach in the fight against obesity.
“I find that keeping an active mind is the best way to overcome any challenge, as it will encourage enlightened thinking and improve general intelligence,” he said. “I find that I have the most fun with education when I try learning complicated things, because I then feel extremely accomplished and confident that I can learn anything I want.”
SPARKS — When Alexandria Frater arrived in Sparks, she was worried people would not understand her or that she would not fit in and would be considered an outsider. The 17-year-old from Jamaica was gladly proven wrong.
“Each and every day was a test to adjust to this new life and overcome my doubts and find the strength to believe in myself at the darkest times,” she said.
Frater’s ‘never give up’ attitude has allowed her to become accustomed to the Spanish Springs High School curriculum and her surroundings. She says she is excited to finally cross the stage Saturday as a high school graduate.
“High school is no doubt tough, but good friends can help you to stick it out and realize you have potential,” she said adding some advice for working through high school. “Be open to positive change and allow yourself to make mistakes because they are the best way to learn”
Frater hopes to continue her education with a possible career path as a lawyer, realtor or FBI agent. She plans to join the Air Force and begin serving her country after Saturday’s graduation.
Her school counselor, Angie Griffiths Pilkington, said that Frater’s uncertainty will not hinder her ability to succeed.
“She has a positive, determined spirit I believe will serve her well in life no matter what path she chooses,” Pilkington said.
Frater, who hopes to become the first person in her family to graduate from an American college, said moving to the United States has given her a new perspective on education.
“I value education because so many people don’t have it and wish they did,” she said. “I would be extremely remiss if I let the opportunity to learn pass me by.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Washoe County School District has been profiling graduating high school seniors in the weeks leading up to this week’s commencement ceremonies. The profiles below of two students from Spanish Springs High School are taken from the district’s interviews. To read more and see videos, visit www.washoecountyschools.org/community/countdown-to-graduation.