RIO VISTA — Nicholas Duran arrived at Rio Vista High School two years ago. He had so few credits the idea of graduating in two years was a foreign concept.
That’s just what he did Friday as Rio Vista High sent its Class of 2014, the school’s 101st graduating class, out into the world.
Loretta Abbott, a counselor at the high school, said Duran is too modest about his accomplishments considering he managed to play football and attend day and night classes.
“He came to the school and reached out his hand to everyone,” she said. “He became popular really quick.”
Duran was lovingly called “Big Rig” by his classmates.
He’ll attend the College of Southern Nevada in the fall. Football will remain a passion as well as his zest for life.
Under his white graduation gown, Duran donned a T-shirt that read, “Keep Calm and Pong On.”
“I’m a party animal,” he said in jest. “No, I’m not really a party animal.”
About one-third of the graduates are going on to a university or state college, about 40 percent will attend a community college and 10 percent are enlisting in the military, Principal Vicky Turk said.
Two will travel across the ocean to go home.
Foreign exchange student Kadrine Hoegg-Andersen will return to her native Denmark. She choked back tears while sharing memories from her senior year.
“I’d never heard of Rio Vista,” she said. “I knew it was in California and I thought there would be palm trees.”
Tobias Polakovics, nicknamed “Tobi,” is returning to Austria. He delighted the audience with his stories about life in Rio Vista, beginning with how he had to look it up on Google maps.
“I had to zoom in,” he said. “At first I just saw windmills. I thought I was going to the middle of nowhere.”
Polakovics said he felt his English had vastly improved and he’d managed to get rid of his accent.
“My friends may disagree,” he said.
Like Duran, he played on the high school football team.
Playing on the school’s athletic teams also taught him some valuable lessons, he said.
“I learned golf people get mad at you if you hit their house with a golf ball even though they live on the golf course,” Polakovics said.
Tears were shed, too.
The Class of 2014 lost two of its members in the past two years. Kianna Machado died in a car crash in May 2013. Deven Davis lost her battle with cancer on Jan. 6.
Two chairs sat in the front row for each of them. They were marked with pictures of Machado and Davis.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.