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Pyramid Lake Sends Record Number of Native American Graduates to College

Native American high school sends largest percentage of graduates to college in its history.
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What started in 1979 as a last resort for at-risk Native American students in northern Nevada is becoming a successful bridge to higher learning.

Pyramid Lake Junior/Senior High School in Nixon, Nevada will send eight of its 11 graduating seniors on to college—the highest percentage in its history.

According to a story by the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ), one will attend Stanford University, three will go to Haskell Indian Nations University, two to the United Tribes Technical College (UTTC), and two to Truckee Meadows Community College.

And this is part of an upward trend at the school.

“In the last couple of years we’re seeing more kids going to college,” Principal Randy Melendez, who has been at Pyramid Lake for two decades, told RGJ.

And to make sure they didn’t change their minds about leaving the reservation, the school held a celebration on August 2 for the college-bound students to “make sure that they don’t get cold feet and [show them] that we are all still behind them,” Melendez said in a video posted at

The students appreciate that level of caring, knowing they probably won’t get it once they leave.

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“When you go to a big school you don’t get that much support,” Briana Leighquartz in the video. “But here they’ll notice when you’re slipping with your grades.” She will be heading to UTTC in the fall.

“We know well that if you can get through that first year of college and not bail out, get homesick… chances are that they will go back and continue to make their way,” Melendez said in the video. “They are going to prove to other Native students that they can leave the reservation.”

The high school really starting coming up in 2000 when the Bureau of Indian Education built a new state-of-the-art facility. Once that was taken care of, the school focused on student performance by hiring special consultant Roy Case. His task was to look at the school’s structure and evaluate teaching and the curriculum.

“The first thing we had to do was establish a vision and a mission,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Just a couple of key words to summarize it: high expectations for adults, community, teachers, staff and students.

“Many times what schools focus on are high expectations only for students,” he added. “To declare Pyramid Lake Junior and Senior High as a community of learning was very important.”

The school is part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and is federally funded through a five-year Bureau of Indian Affairs grant of $68,000 per year awarded in 2007.

To read more about Pyramid Lake High School, visit