Savannah Hughes: 2017 Elko High Valedictorian (Part One)

“I’m Teaching Myself”

By Alina Croft (Instagram: lina_gail, Twitter: alina_croft)

Savannah Hughes was the Elko High School Valedictorian for the Class of 2017. Almost four years later and she’s getting ready to graduate college. It is quite a different environment for many reasons, and she has been influenced to be a changed person from her senior year of high school. 

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The Truth

In full transparency, Savannah Hughes is one of my (Intern Alina) oldest and best friends. We went through elementary, middle, and high school together, all the way through graduation by each other’s side. I was with her for my worst and best, and I (hope/think) I was for her. I helped her write her valedictorian speech at midnight before speaking it to our class and loved ones the next evening.

We know all of each other’s secrets and success, and that has been such an amazing thing to me. I watched her grow from a fourth-grader with a bob and bangs pushed back by a headband to the gorgeous woman she is today with her piercing blue eyes, captivating you with her eloquent speech and commanding thoughts. Basically, what I am saying is, I’m using this opportunity to brag about one of my favorite people and the person she has become. 

Let’s Go Back To High School

Now with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to business. What got Savannah to the moment where she stood at a podium on a muggy June day in 2017? There were many factors but at the base of it was mentorship, drive, and inspiring guidance from a science teacher at Elko High School. 

“Brian Zeiszler’s class was really pivotal for me. He graded his class based on a B grade as meeting expectations, and an A exceeded expectations. The mindset that I learned in there my sophomore year was translated to all of my other classes,” said Savannah. “It related to all of my other classes; if I wanted an A, I needed to excel. It was something I enjoyed.”

With the type of motivation Savannah had internally and externally, it would seem like she always had her nose buried in a book, too busy with her AP and dual credit college classes to work on other things like sports, clubs, etc. However, that would be wildly incorrect. Savannah was more involved at Elko High School than almost any student. For starters, Savannah played volleyball for two years, competed with the speech and debate club, founded and ran a civic engagement club for students, was the secretary for National Honor Society, senior class Vice President, served as an officer for pep club, and also was heavily involved with a program at the middle school.

“One of the things I spent a lot of time on was a program at the middle school called the ABC’s. So, if a student was falling behind in their coursework, we came up with a plan of action to help mediate any issues. The goal was to create a peer mentoring program to assist students before getting to high school,” said Savannah. “For this, I worked with the principal at the time and the ESL teacher. We would go to students’ houses and talk to them and their parents. A lot of the students were new to the community or first-generation Americans, so we would try to bridge the gap between the school system and their home life.”  

Savannah ended up following in her high school mentor’s steps in many ways to get to the end of her high school career. 

“I had a really great mentor, Amelia Lamp, who was valedictorian a few years before me. I never really thought about college until I met her, and she talked about all the opportunities that were available to me. She just really inspired me to give school my all,” said Savannah. 

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Off To College, We Go

Savannah entered her schooling at the University of Nevada, Reno, with the determination to be successful. A lot of that determination could be credited to her ability to thrive in challenging environments. Still, her thought process and values may have been her key to getting through almost four years of her collegiate career and about to graduate once again. 

“I credit Mr. Zeisler to a lot. I think he was one of the best teachers Elko High School ever had. He taught me a great life lesson, you can’t give an average effort and expect above average results,” said Savannah. “I saw that as a challenge or puzzle. For me, it worked because I do think you have to go one step beyond what the average person will do or where the teacher will lead you to get the most you possibly can out of a lesson or a class.”

Apply this to college, and you have a student ready to achieve big things. 

“In college, the thing is that you have a lot less interaction with your professors than you do your high school level. To be successful in a class, you have to go the extra level and talk to your professors. Professors probably won’t say that but knowing that I had to put in that extra effort helped me in college,” said Savannah. 

Anthony Note: Make sure to come back on Friday to read part two of Alina’s conversation with Savannah! Spoiler alert, it’s also very good!

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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!

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