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Ena Rivas and fellow high school seniors at the senior sunrise at Green Valley High School on August 22, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Ena Rivas)

Heading into her senior year, Ena Rivas found herself two years behind on credits and facing the prospect of not graduating.

But then she moved in with a friend, whose parents became her new guardians, and started at Beacon Academy, a blended-learning public charter school for credit deficient students in Clark County. Students generally attend in person classes a couple days a week and do the rest of their learning online. 

“I arrived at Beacon because I was credit-deficient and wasn’t really paying attention much to my schooling while I was in another household, with my mom,” she said. “I had to face the consequence that I wouldn’t be going to a real high school and, you know, getting the memory of going to homecoming and having my last prom and a senior sunrise and sunset.”

Rivas worked hard during her final year, putting all of her efforts into her school work. She ended up finishing 13.5 credits during the 2019-2020 term and has managed to meet all graduation requirements a month early.

But COVID-19 has put a damper on her comeback. Physical classes have been suspended at the school just as they have been around the country, as have many of the defining events around high school graduation.

“Class of 2020 is kind of just really bummed about this whole thing,” said Rivas. “I was really excited to make this end of senior year video that I’ve been working on since summertime. And now, with this whole thing, my friends aren’t able to be with each other, and I’m not able to film those memories and make something special for us.”

She is lucky enough to have friends who invited her to attend their school’s senior events, taking her to homecoming and even making crowns for her at their senior sunrise at the beginning of the year. However, like the rest of their class, Rivas and her friends have lost their prom and senior sunset, an event at the end of the year when seniors gather to watch the sun go down together. 

She also doesn’t get to invite friends to one of the few events she would have had at her own school — a graduation ceremony.

“They have homecoming and stuff like that,” she said. “The only thing I really have is graduating and having my own graduation, and that definitely motivated me.”

It has also been difficult for Rivas to have lost the in-person classes at her school that had helped keep her going throughout the year.

“The going in twice a week was definitely easier, too, so when they shut down schools and everything, that kind of motivation went down a little bit,” she said. “I didn’t have all teachers on me, making sure that I have been doing my work.”

Still, Rivas found ways to push herself so she can move on to college in the fall.

“I went in not knowing anything about college, not thinking that I was going to go,” she said. “Because I didn’t think I had the work ethic for that.”

Her senior year gave her a new perspective on her own abilities, and her new guardians helped her apply for school and an apartment. She plans to attend Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno before eventually transferring to the University of Nevada Reno.

Rivas intends to get her degree as a veterinary technician and, in spite of the setbacks, says she is excited about her future.

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