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Education

The graduates: 7 Chaparral seniors one year after the turnaround

Last September, the Weekly interviewed 10 Chaparral seniors about making it through their final year. With graduation on June 15, it’s time to see where they stand

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Students walk between classes at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Photo: Leila Navidi
Paul Takahashi

A lot has changed at Chaparral High School this year—new leadership, new teachers and a new attitude about discipline and academics. Not everyone liked the changes at first. Hundreds of students and parents protested when Chaparral was deemed a "turnaround" school, meaning more than half the teachers had to be replaced. But with the staffing upheaval came a new Chap. The campus was cleaned and order restored, bringing police incidents down by 90 percent. A renewed focus on academics prevailed, and the graduation rate has jumped from 33 percent in 2011 to an estimated 54 percent for 2012, meaning 100 more students will receive diplomas.

In the fall, we interviewed 10 Chap seniors. Nearly 180 school days later, nine are on track to graduate. We reconnected with seven of them to see if they’ll walk this weekend and what they have planned for the future.

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      Guadalupe Espinoza

      18, Chaparral senior

      Then: I would really like a job so that I could have money to go to college. It’s just hard sometimes. Only my dad works. My mom is at home raising two younger sisters.

      Now: I haven’t been able to find a job yet. I want to go to college next year. I’ll probably work at a nail salon. I want to be a pediatrician. I really like kids, and I want to be able to help them.

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      Oscar Estrada

      18, Chaparral senior

      Then: In science, I never got the teaching I needed. It was kind of hard, but I want to be a psychologist. I’ve always had people confide in me. You’ve got to do something you’re good at, something you enjoy.

      Now: I was feeling a little worried about whether or not I was going to get through my math and science proficiencies. But fortunately, I passed both of them. My teachers helped us. I’m excited to graduate. You know, it’s one of your biggest life achievements, getting through high school. I got that done, and I can proceed to the next chapter in my life. Before I was interested in psychology, but I’d like to go to CSN and get into writing. I’m not quite sure yet, just see where life takes me.

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      Crystal Carter

      18, Chaparral senior

      Then: They want to help people who are struggling, but I want to be brought up to a higher level, too. I feel like I can be challenged, but they look at me and they think, “She’s already smart. She doesn’t need more help.”

      Now: I don’t feel like I was given the best preparation for the future. People who cared about education were hurt the most, because they focused more on the bad kids ... People who failed proficiencies or don’t go to class, they get in drawings for iPads. That wasn’t fair in the turnaround. I’m happy to be graduating. I’m going to go to UNR and majoring in education and psychology. I want to be a second grade teacher and work with kids. I want to eventually get my Ph.D. and become a children’s psychiatrist. I don’t want to regret anything.

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      Juan Lopez

      17, Chaparral senior

      Then: I want to actually learn something this year. Most people just want to graduate, just want to get out of school. I want to learn the basics for life.

      Now: I didn’t approve of the turnaround at first, because I was so used to the old Chaparral, but I feel like it made Chaparral so much better. My dad does construction and landscaping in the morning and works as a janitor at night. There would be times I wouldn’t see him for a week, because I had dance and rehearsals. But my dad is always there, listening to me talk about my week at school. He didn’t finish his high school education, neither did my mom. He wants us to have a future.

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      Jessica Quiroz

      18, Chaparral senior

      Then: I’ve applied so many places for work: the Fashion Show, Burger King, McDonald’s, the Boulevard Mall. I never get any calls. If I don’t find work right now, I’m not going to have a job that says I’ve worked and know how to work.

      Now: I’m the first one from my entire family to graduate high school. Being the first one, it’s a big thing for me and my whole family. I feel really proud of myself. My dream is to become a lawyer and help my sister become better than what I am now—have her graduate with an advanced honor degree. I want to work to be able to help my family out. Chap is way better than what it was. Hopefully it stays this way and keeps growing.

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      Melissa Ruiz

      18, Chaparral senior

      Then: First I’m going to go into nursing, and then I’m going to become an OB. I love the body, the woman’s body, how they’re able to develop and carry life. Plus, I’ll have a secure job.

      Now: My mom and I protested the changes at the flagpole last year. Our voices had to be heard. I’m happy now that we did the turnaround. The new changes are for the best of the school and for the kids. I applied to Nevada State, but I’m going to the Air Force first. I’ve always wanted to serve my country. I want to be a nurse. Right now Nevada is not such a good place to be for work. I’m not going to stay in Nevada. I want to travel around and see the world.

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      Anthony Sipes

      18, Green Valley High School senior

      Then: I want to start at CSN and then go to college in Missouri—St. Louis or Northwest Missouri State. It’s quiet there. I’ve always liked Midwest living; it’s slower, it’s more laid back.

      Now: My family had some struggles so we pretty much up and left Green Valley and moved over there [to Chaparral’s district]. We’re back on our feet now, so I came back to Green Valley High School in January. I was scared when I went to Chaparral. I wasn’t used to that neighborhood. I learned to stay away from certain streets. Honestly, the turnaround was a good thing for the school to get back on its feet. I can’t wait to get done with high school. It’s been a long four years, but it was all worth it. I just wanted to make my parents proud. I’m proud of myself.

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