Graduation 2018: Perseverance pays off for Moffat County graduate who took alternate path |

Graduation 2018: Perseverance pays off for Moffat County graduate who took alternate path

MCHS 2018 graduate Nayeli Rodriguez
Sasha Nelson/staff

CRAIG — After a rough start in high school, Nayeli Perez-Rodriguez, took an alternative path to education, transforming herself from a mean-girl at risk of dropping out to a proud Moffat County High School graduate, ready to make a difference in her community.

“In middle school, I was aggressive. My freshman year, I went to regular high school, then GOAL Academy. I was behind in credits and decided to come here, and it’s helped,” Perez-Rodriguez said in describing the path she took to enter the YES Opportunity School.

Formerly known as the Alternative School, the YES — Youth Experiencing Success — Opportunity School within MCHS offers high-risk students an alternative to traditional educational settings.

“If these students stay in a traditional school setting, they are at a high risk of not graduating,” said Co-Instructor Joy Tegtman.

This type of student often needs a learning environment better suited to his or her needs.

“Just give them an opportunity in a non-traditional setting, and watch them succeed,” added Co-Instructor Larry Ensminger.

Perez-Rodriguez thinks staying in the traditional school setting might have offered more activities, but she struggled there.

“I don’t like school. At the high school, we have to go the way teachers are teaching us. Here, we can go our own way. I felt motivated to finish, and I knew I could,” she said.

Perez-Rodriguez joined YES Opportunity School in August 2017 and earned enough credits to graduate a year early. During her last semester, she was on Moffat County High School girls soccer team and honored as Bulldog of the Week.

Perez-Rodriguez is one of three juniors and 11 seniors who completed the requirements to receive a diploma from Moffat County High School.

“YES Opportunity School made up over 11 percent of the students graduating May 26, 2018,” Ensminger said.

Some of these students include Karlee Brown, who is featured in the Craig Press story about graduates entering the military service; Janel Kemp, who joined YES Opportunity School in August 2016 and finished in April; and Alex Nevarez, who joined YES Opportunity School in January 2017, receiving his diploma a year later.

During her year at GOAL Academy, Perez-Rodriguez said she often felt alone and isolated.

“I used to be a really mean person,” she said. “Now, I try to be nice and helpful. I know what it’s like to be lonely and need someone.”

Her year trying to study at home, often alone, gave her time to reflect on how she wanted to change.

She attributes her success to her mother, Alma Rodriguez, and her group of friends, including Abigail Told, Lilli Pearce, Jackie Borja, Larissa Payan, Ricardo Castro, Huvel Mendoza and her brother, Eduardo Rodriguez.

“My friends helped. They were here for me. They were positive,” Perez-Rodriguez said.

Despite the support, it wasn’t until the last four months of her education that things “really clicked,” she said. That’s when she decided to finish school.

She hopes other struggling students can learn from her experiences.

“Don’t give up. There were a couple times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. High school is hard. Everyone is going to judge; don’t take it to heart,” Perez-Rodriguez said. “People always say things; we learn to love ourselves and know the truth. We shouldn’t care too much about what others say.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or