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Nevada will soon spend a lot more money on public education thanks to Governor Sandoval's historic $1.1 billion tax plan. But for now, our graduation rate remains near the bottom of the national barrel at just 70 percent. As many area high schools prepare hold their commencement ceremonies, Reno Public Radio has shared the stories of students who are earning their degrees, despite adversities like being homeless, dealing with a drug addiction, or not having enough family support at home. We also spoke to local experts about what interventions really work for kids facing a tough road to graduation.

Homelessness Won't Stop One Teen From Graduating


There are about 2,300 students in the Washoe County School District who are homeless and they’re at much greater risk for dropping out of school. But, there’s a McQueen High School senior determined to be the first in her family to go to college despite not having a permanent place to live. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray has more.

Sierrah Carden is a friendly and chatty teenager, who doesn’t seem much different than a typical high school student.  But, her experiences are unlike that of her peers.  Since her step-dad lost his construction job four years ago, her family hasn’t had a permanent home. They’ve moved from place to place, often times staying at various motels. Carden says over the years, it’s been tough in a lot of ways.

The challenges that Carden and her family experienced included food insecurities, transportation problems and not having stable housing. As a high school student trying to remain in school, the problems were compounded by a lack of internet access and the difficulty of finding  a quiet place to study. 

She says support from community organizations  and offers of help from teachers helped her to get by. Her peers were less understanding of Carden's circumstances.

“For a long time I felt less than,"  Carden says. "I didn’t want to come to school because I didn’t want to deal with all the ridicules.”

Despite what seemed like unsurmountable odds, Carden was determined to be the first in her family to go on to college and also to set a good example to her younger brother. This fall, Carden will be attending Truckeee Meadows Community College where she wants to delve deeper into the human mind by studying psychology.

Anh is a contributing editor for the KUNR news team and has been with the station since 2014. She is an alumna of the Boston University School of Public Health and Teachers College, Columbia University.