Melanie Plasse’s academic achievements would thrill any high school student and their parents.
For one, she is the Jump Start valedictorian for Churchill County High School.
Furthermore, Plasse earned an associate degree through Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program before realizing her high school diploma, graduating on Thursday morning on the Fallon campus.
“She's one of our rock stars,” said WNC Fallon Campus Director Holly O'Toole, who is equally impressed with Plasse's work in the college's library where she shows “professionalism, helpfulness and excellent customer service.”
However, Plasse’s academic accolades and people skills are only part of her success story. As a high school freshman, Plasse was diagnosed with scoliosis, the sideways curvature of the spine. Not exactly what an aspiring dancer initially wants to hear.
“We found that I did not have enough muscle around my spine and in my back to help properly support my developing spine, so my chiropractor encouraged me to dance,” Plasse said. “Dancing allows me to work with every muscle in my back, neck, abdomen, and arms to give me the proper support I need. It also keeps me flexible and mobile, helping my joints grow accordingly.”
Three years later, Plasse has danced and studied her way into the University of Utah’s prestigious School of Dance. That honor didn't happen until Plasse auditioned for the program.
“I’m so so happy that I was one of the few selected,” she said. “The University of Utah is a classified school of dance and I am honored to be represented there.
“I have always had a passion for dancing; it gives me joy in this world. I didn't let this inconvenience stop me from doing what I love, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to continue my passion with other professionals.”
At Utah, she will double major in Modern Dance and Applied Positive Psychology. Following graduation, she hopes to combine those two passions into a career of sports psychology.
“My goal is to one day work with athletes or dancers to improve the mental aspect of their talent,” Plasse said. “Helping them overcome anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD or any other mental blocks they may face helping them become the strongest athlete they can become.”
In becoming one of 139 graduates from WNC’s Jump Start College this spring, Plasse has enjoyed challenging herself and being around other students committed to excellence.
“I loved being in a classroom setting with other students who wanted to be there,” she said. “I was able to challenge myself academically and take on harder classes that pushed me to my limits. I loved the professional setting WNC offers, and as a high school student, I felt like this opportunity allowed me to grow my maturity and in a more adult setting.”
That undaunted approach and conscientious work made her graduation from WNC even more special.
“It means to me that all my hard work over the last two years is shown here at this moment,” she said. “The whole reason I am here is to work toward my degree and it is these long-term goals and rewards that can get lost along the way. All the countless nights of homework or studying for finals, it’s this moment of graduation that makes all those strenuous nights worth it. It is my reward and what I have been looking forward to these past two years.”