Exceptional Students Thrive with SWAS Curriculum

As the bell rings, dozens of students return to their respective classrooms. Chatter buzzes through the air. School begins once again. The teachers’ voices become the new sound. Projects and drawings tile the walls of room 33, resulting in a kaleidoscope of color. Tiny hands will use pencils and protractors as their tools. Desks are covered in papers and books. Room 33 is different, however. The unique students that walk into this class every day are what make it different. It is where a group of students can be themselves and flourish academically. They can learn in a way that is best for them. It is, in fact, a school within a school.

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A New Type of Learning

“We realize that one size doesn’t fit all as far as education goes,” said KayAnn Pilling, current principal of Roy Gomm Elementary. “There are certain kids who absolutely need a challenge.”

The mentality ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ fuels the School Within a School program, otherwise known as SWAS. Placement in the program requires students to take an IQ test.

“When the child is first tested for eligibility, he or she is considered highly gifted if they are within the 99 percentile,” said Tim Robinson, elementary program coordinator for SWAS. “They are given the option to participate in the SWAS program after we see those results.”

After acceptance to the program, the student is placed into a site closest to their home. Teachers who are part of the Gifted and Talented Program teach SWAS classes. These teachers are specifically trained to benefit advanced students.

“We have some of the best teachers in the district working in our program,” Robinson said.

Although Washoe County Schools have offered Gifted and Talented programs in the past, SWAS programs are relatively new. SWAS classrooms are located at Whitehead, Roy Gomm, Caughlin Ranch and Hunsburger. Roy Gomm has been home to the SWAS program for four years.

“The SWAS kids bring such a great diversity to the student body,” Pilling said. “We were really lucky to get the program here and we have really fantastic teachers and families a part of it.”

There are roughly 130 families currently looking for SWAS admittance.

“Unfortunately, this year we had to put some of the kids on waiting lists,” Pilling said. “A lot more people are looking into this program now as opposed to when it first started out in the district.”

As a former teacher, Robinson connects with the program and finds it necessary to provide these types of services.

“You become a teacher to make a difference in the lives of these kids and that is exactly what SWAS allows us to do,” Robinson said. “We feel passionate about these programs, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

Raising_Hand 

Family Matters

For many students in the SWAS program, their former classrooms weren’t fitting for numerous reasons.

“A lot of these students would experience issues in class because they were bored with the work and would get fidgety,” Pilling said. “SWAS allows them to be challenged in the necessary ways as to keep them engaged.”

Although the difference at school for SWAS students is obvious, the strongest impact is shown through their personal lives. Andrea Neahusan, mother of six and SWAS parent, has a strong relationship with the program.

“This is a program that I am very personally passionate about,” Neahusan said. “It has seriously changed the lives of my kids.”

After moving to Nevada six years ago, Neahusan began looking for gifted and talented programs for her children.

“I knew that my kids needed to be challenged,” Neahusan said.

13-year-old Kylee Neahusan, a SWAS graduate, remembers feeling frustrated with her schooling prior to SWAS.

“It was hard to try and learn with kids who weren’t learning at the same speed I was,” Kylee said. “I was getting verbally abused by other kids at school. They didn’t want to accept my friends and I.”

Feeling like a misfit at school dampened her love of learning.

“Kylee was only in third grade and I started to see that twinkle in her eye go out,” Neahusan said. “She would make up excuses to ditch school and hated doing any kind of homework.”

Students like Kylee often times feel frustrated with school because they find it boring or pointless.

“Just having that knowledge of the gifted child and embracing it is the most important thing in these classrooms,” said Michelle Behm, current third and fourth grade SWAS teacher at Roy Gomm. “You have to keep them interested and challenged.”

After realizing traditional school wasn’t working, Neahusan began to look into SWAS.

“She really didn’t want to go into SWAS but we wanted her to at least try it,” Neahusan said. “It just broke my heart that she didn’t love school anymore.”

In a few short months, Kylee’s life changed. She flourished in her new classroom, surrounded by like-minded peers.

“I was just able to be myself,” Kylee said. “It helped that everyone else was learning just as fast as I was.”

The Roy Gomm SWAS Students answer the question, “What do you want to be when you  grow up?”

Brenden – Movie Director or Stand-up Comic
Liam – Architect
Will – Air Force Pilot
Lucas – Inventor
Mia – Marine Biologist
Breanna – Artist or Singer
Sydney – Snowboarder
Marisa – Vet
Drew – Artist
Cole – Carpenter
Neeva – Inventor
Joel – Video Game and Lego Designer
Kaitlyn – Fashion Designer
Eli – Chemist
Leo – Computer Game Programmer
Grant – Engineer
Connor – Waiter at a Fancy Restaurant
Brenden – Video Game Designer
Josie – Vet
Violet – Teacher
Claire – Professional Dancer
Kelbey – Florist
West – Astronaut
Lily – Librarian

Will and Celeste Neahusan, Kylee’s siblings, are current Roy Gomm SWAS students.

“In my class, it’s really fun because everyone is like me and we can learn things fast,” Will said. “I was bored last year because I felt like I already knew everything.”

Kylee hopes to one day open a diabetes-friendly bakery. Will dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot and Celeste wants to become a concert pianist.

“The difference that SWAS has made for our home life as a family is immeasurable,” Neahusan said. “I am so incredibly grateful for these teachers. My children are so much happier.”

The SWAS program has proven the difference a change in curriculum can make for a student.

Kimberly Smerkers-Bass, mother of SWAS student Brenden Bass, has also experienced the program’s impact.

“I always knew Brenden was gifted,” Smerkers-Bass said. “He was very verbal and fast at a young age.”

Originially from Verdi Elementary, Brenden found himself bored in class.

“He never wanted to admit that he didn’t like school anymore,” Smerkers-Bass said. “He’s a perfectionist.”

After being tested early on for Gifted and Talented services, Bass began to look into SWAS and visited Roy Gomm with Brenden.

“It was a perfect fit for him,” Smerkers-Bass said. “Mrs. Pilling and Mrs. Behm did a fantastic job at making us feel welcome right away. They went out of the way to do so.”

Brenden experienced a smooth transition from Verdi to Roy Gomm. However, he had to work harder in and out of class.

“I noticed that he was a lot more tired after he started SWAS,” Smerkers-Bass said. “He wasn’t able to finish his homework in two minutes anymore. But the challenge was a good thing for sure.”

Bass notices how SWAS students interact with each other.

“I’ll have Brenden and another SWAS student in the car and I just love listening to their conversations in the back seat,” Smerkers-Bass said. “Just the way that they interact with each other is so different and interesting.”

One of the best things that Bass has noticed about SWAS is Brenden embracing his unique personality and intelligence.

“What I’ve noticed is how Brenden doesn’t mind being labeled as a SWAS kid,” Smerkers-Bass said. “In fact, he thinks it’s pretty cool to be a SWAS kid. He likes being different.”

The level of impact this program makes is shown through many families and their personal stories.

Class

“SWAS not only makes them better students, but improves their lives in general,” Behm said.

“My favorite is knowing students before the SWAS program and seeing the improvement after they have started in their new class,” Pilling said. “I had one student who used to always get into trouble in class. Once he started SWAS, I never saw him again.”

New Perspective     

“As a teacher, you get into this line of work so you can make a difference in these kids lives,” Robinson said. “Being a part of the SWAS program has allowed me to make a difference for these students.”

Advanced learners have changed school experiences thanks to SWAS.

“You never want a student to walk away from school feeling like their educational needs haven’t been met,” Behm said. “I always need to be a few steps ahead of my students to make sure they are always going home learning something.”

Despite their intellectual maturity, Behm understands that children are still learning their social and developmental skills.

“Sometimes, the IQ level and the emotional level of these kids don’t always see eye to eye,” Behm said. “I try to incorporate as much cognitive and social learning as I can into their days.”

“I have to remember sometimes that it is important to let them be kids and not push them too hard,” Neahusan said. “They are still going to be nine-and-ten-year olds no matter how smart they are.”

The SWAS curriculum also focuses on projects and big-picture learning. The students are encouraged to learn independently as a way to form their own learning style.

“SWAS teaches kids to think for themselves, which is something that is so important,” Neahusan said.

Gifted students continue to challenge parents and teachers with their constant desire to expand their knowledge.

“I love a challenge, I thrive off of it myself,” Behm said. “I really connect with kids who are outside the box thinkers.”

SWAS has not only affected the students, but has changed the lives of those teaching.

“SWAS has really made me go back to my roots of teaching,” Behm said. “I am remembering how important it is to cater to the needs of the individual as a whole, not just the intellectual needs.”

This program helps shape a better learning environment for advanced students and benefits those involved. The growth of SWAS leads to a promising future for the program and bright horizons for these children.

“These students are going to be our doctors, our researchers, our creative thinkers,” Behm said. “You have to think about the future and you have to help them flourish.”

Watch the SWAS third and fourth graders in action during class:

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Charlotte’s Story

Walking into the stables, the smell of horses and dirt overcome the senses. The sound of trainers yelling instructions to those taking lessons and the clip-clop of hooves create a very fitting soundtrack. The miniature dust storms that form with every step leave shoes warm with a blanket of airy brown powder. Horses poke their long faces out from behind the stable doors. Their warm dark eyes seem to know exactly what you’re thinking. In this place, two walks of life become equal in a sport of elegance and grace; a horse and a human combine to create something beautiful. One duo seems to stand out among the rest. The presence of this chestnut-brown horse plays as a mantelpiece in the arena. Although it weighs more than a ton, this animal somehow gallops around the arena as if it were weightless. The woman, dressed warmly in riding clothes, moves in perfect unison with the horse. It seems natural for her to be on the back of such a massive animal. The confidence that both the rider and the horse find in each other results in an equestrian ballet. The woman finishes her ride and jumps off the back of the horse. She greets everyone with a pearly white smile and a cheerful voice. The grace and beauty of this woman is as overwhelming as the animal she was just riding. This woman is clearly an accomplished equestrian by her performance in the arena, but getting to know her, you realize that she is so much more than that. She is, in fact, the epitome of remarkable.

Charlotte Jorst, 49, is the kind of person that isn’t easily forgotten. A Copenhagen, Denmark native, Charlotte’s friendly personality and charming Danish accent make her memorable. Her tall slender figure and wavy blonde hair give her a welcoming and comforting appearance. The Jorst household would not be complete without a resounding greeting from this woman. In her house, Charlotte can often be found in her kitchen making traditional Danish food or at her dining table with her family.

“She is rarely in a bad mood,” said Camilla Jorst, Charlotte’s 20-year-old daughter.

Charlotte and her husband Henrik have made a name for themselves in this country by their determination and passion for adventure. She lived in Denmark for 23 years where she attended business school with Henrik.

“We actually went to high school together too,” Charlotte said. “Apparently there was something or someone who really wanted us to be together because we kept running into each other.”

Henrik and Charlotte’s relationship started as a friendship, but then grew into more than that. Shortly after they began to see each other, Henrik moved to United States for a work opportunity. Charlotte moved as well shortly after.

“It was really hard when Henrik moved, but he wasn’t the only reason I came to the states,” Charlotte said.

She was working for Carlsberg at the time, a Danish brewing company. They needed someone to come to the United States and promote their brand in a big city. Carlsberg is a brand that is more common in Europe than in the states.  They offered her an internship in New York and she seized the opportunity to start a new life overseas. She worked with this internship for three months.

“I got very bored with that job,” Charlotte said.

 

Charlotte shifted gears in the company and then become Miss Carlsberg, a spokeswoman for the beer. It was through this internship that Charlotte became a rep for a watch company that specialized in logo watches.

“I would just go around to banks and offices and stuff like that,” Charlotte said. “They could personalize the watches as well.”

Because each watch was supposed to be designed differently, Charlotte began to experiment with her own designs and styles of watches.

“One time, we went to a corporate convention and a retailer saw the watches that I had redesigned,” Charlotte said. “He told me that he could sell my watches if they had a different logo.”

Henrik and Charlotte transformed their small Long Island house into a design shop. They put 200 watches into production and decided to name the brand Skagen. This is the name of a small fishing village in Denmark.

“I used to love vacationing in Skagen, it’s very much so like the Laguna Beach of Denmark,” Charlotte said. “I designed the watches based off of the simplicity of the town itself. Not commercialized or modern. Just simple and beautiful.”

Coming to this country with zero connections, the Jorsts had to start from scratch with Skagen.

“All of our family was and currently is in Denmark,” Henrik said.

“It’s very unheard of that people can succeed in a city like New York without already having an in somewhere,” Charlotte said.“ But I love being the underdog.”

This kind of challenge only motivated them to work harder and push through the hard times of small paychecks and small houses. The drive to succeed and persevere only motivated the Jorsts to try harder.

“Charlotte is a very competitive woman,” said Henrik, Charlotte’s husband. “She even gets upset if she loses to a game of ‘Words With Friends’ with me.”

Being natives of Denmark, Charlotte and Henrik’s work visas were about to run out around the same that Skagen was starting.

“Charlotte won a Green Card Lottery about a month before our visas were about to run out,” Henrick said. “I have no idea how we got that lucky.”

Charlotte entered a lottery for a green card and was given an extra one as well. She gave the second one to Henrik, allowing them to continue their jobs in the states.

That batch of the original 200 watches was the start of what would become an international designer watch brand. Henrik and Charlotte soon found themselves in the spotlight as some of the fastest growing entrepreneurs in the United States. Skagen is now sold in over 60 different countries and also has a branch of jewelry and sunglasses.

“Once it took off there was no looking back,” Henrik said. “It felt great to watch the brand go from a local New York one to a worldwide brand.”

“It grew exponentially,” Charlotte said. “It was such a huge achievement.”

The Jorsts, now with their eldest daughter Christine, moved their family and company headquarters across the country to Nevada. Originally living in Incline Village, they moved to Reno after the birth of their second daughter Camilla.

“Nevada was a good choice for us because of the low property taxes,” Charlotte said. “We literally just got in the car and started driving cross country and eventually hit Tahoe.”

As the company began to get larger and larger, Charlotte and Henrik began to lose sight of the little watch shop they once had in Long Island.

“By the end of Skagen, I was somewhat bored,” Charlotte said. “It was so big by that point and it just wasn’t the same.”

It was through the success of Skagen that the Jorsts realized that it was never the money that they were after. It was the journey and excitement that comes from starting at the bottom that they really loved.

“I love beginnings,” Charlotte said. “I love it when everything that goes right seems like a miracle, and every little thing is worth celebrating.”

Fossil, a larger brand that had always been a competitor for Skagen, offered to buy the company.

“It was a really big decision,” Charlotte said. “Skagen was the start of it all.”

“It was like giving up our baby that we had nurtured for 23 years,” Henrik said. “But once we got used to the idea of selling we were happy with it.”

After months of negotiation and meetings, the Jorsts sold Skagen to Fossil for a total of 240 million dollars. A Danish couple, who started with zero connections and little funds, found themselves decades later selling their company to one of the largest brands in the United States.

“Sure, it was exciting to get an order for 2 million watches from Costco,” Charlotte said. “But it was time to move on and let someone else take over.”

After selling Skagen, Charlotte and Henrik said goodbye to the company that made them famous and began to look for the next adventure. With newfound time and resources, Charlotte began to rekindle her passion for horseback riding. The fire in her eyes that shines when Charlotte talks about horses and her love for riding is apparent to all.

“I have ridden horses since I was a little girl,” Charlotte said. “My dad passed away when I was 18 though, so then I had to stop because it was too expensive. I’ve always loved it though.”

“Charlotte spends four to five hours a day on those horses,” Henrik said. “She’s married to me, but also to the horses.”

Dressage, a branch of horseback riding, is Charlotte’s specialty. Dressage is essentially “horse dancing,” where the rider and horse are expected to eloquently execute predetermined movements. Over the past year, Charlotte has invested a lot of time into her equestrian passion.

“I didn’t ride for a long time, but then Henrik gave me a horse for our tenth wedding anniversary,” Charlotte said. “After that, I got my daughters into it as well and we’ve all ridden together ever since.”

The Jorsts own a small stable close to their house located in south Reno where Charlotte goes to ride. They also offer room and board to other horses, but the majority of animals there belong to the Jorsts.  It is there that Charlotte keeps her three newest horses. She invested in these horses after the deal with Fossil was finalized. There names are Vitalis, Nintendo and Wilkin. Vitalis is a personal favorite of Charlotte’s.

“I absolutely love dressage,” Charlotte said. “I am so glad to have so much time for it again.”

Charlotte is an extremely accomplished equestrian in her years of riding. When asked how many awards she has won for dressage, her answer was “countless.”

In their house, an entire wall is dedicated solely to the display of her ribbons she has won at various shows.

Christine and Camilla, Charlotte’s two daughters, both competitively ride horses as well. Camilla is currently apart of the New York University equestrian team.

“For me, horseback riding is a release,” Camilla said. “The emotional connection that you make with the horses is unparalled.”

In the last year, Charlotte was able to compete in her most notable show yet. The World Young Horse Championship in Verdin, Germany is a competition of the best riders in the world. She took Vitalis with her to this competition. This was Charlotte’s first time competing in Europe. She quickly became a fan and judge favorite and was also the only American competing in the competition. Charlotte and Vitalis earned their place there by qualifying with 9.2, the highest score ever given to a United States six-year-old horse.

10 being the highest score you can receive in one category, Charlotte receive a score of 8.24, that included 9 for the trot, 8 for canter, 8.7 for submission and 8.5 for general impression. According to the judges, however, Charlotte scored a 10 for enjoying the experience. She was the only rider who smiled while riding.

“Some of those people look like they’re suffering,” Charlotte said. “Why look like that? It’s such a beautiful sport with such wonderful animals.”

This competition put Charlotte on the international map as an equestrian and had every person there watching her as she brightened up the competition with her smile and charm.

“Germany was definitely the biggest and most exciting competition I’ve ever done,” Charlotte said. “It felt great to represent the United States.”

Charlotte ended up finishing in ninth place. Charlotte’s family was also in Germany watching the competition.

Two weeks after the competition in Germany, Charlotte traveled to Chicago to compete in the United States Championship, where her and Vitalis took first.

“Competing in Europe was different, but whenever I compete in the states I usually win,” Charlotte said.

Her newest ambition is to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“I think the best part about dressage is that it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Charlotte said. “I’m almost 50 and I’m just as competitive as anyone else.”

“I have no doubts that Charlotte will make it to the Olympics,” Henrik said. “Once she puts her heart into something, there’s no stopping her.”

To prepare for the Olympics, Charlotte has been training every day and competing as often as she can. Charlotte knows that her hard-work and determination can get her anywhere that she needs to be, even if it’s as ambitious as the Olympics.

“I know it’s going to be hard, but I just feel like there’s no reason not to try,” Charlotte said. “I have nothing to lose and opportunities like this are too wonderful not to take.”

Charlotte is at the barn every day and puts her heart and soul into every practice.

Aside from her equestrian ambitions, Charlotte’s latest business adventure is her new line of active wear.

“I started designing these pieces because I wanted to look decent in work-out clothes,” Charlotte said. “I could never understand why every piece of sport clothing had to be neon and hideous.”

The clothing line, Kastel, is named after the Danish word for “fortress.”

“I named the brand Kastel because I envisioned these pieces to be a fortress against weather and they are meant to protect you,” Charlotte said.

The clothes are designed to be flattering, comfortable and able to keep you warm or cool depending on what you’re doing. Kastel was first launched in October of 2012. Charlotte is in charge of all the designs and Henrik helps with the financial and technical side of things.

“Kastel is a great concept, with beautiful designs and the same core values that we executed in Skagen,” Henrik said.

Charlotte sports her own designs in her daily life, as well as in the riding arena when she is practicing. Her goal was to break even after two years, but with the success of Kastel so far, she is shooting to break even after one.

“I love being back at the beginning with Kastel,” Charlotte said. “Every small order is worth celebrating.”

Kastel holds 20 different accounts and is now becoming a recognized brand in the fashion and equestrian circles.

 

For Charlotte, her life has been a whirlwind of different experiences, challenges and miracles. She is a wife, mother, equestrian, business woman and inspiration. For her, age is truly just a number. There will never be a dream too big or a goal too ambitious.

“I decided that I can’t die,” Charlotte said. “I have way too many ideas and goals. As most people get older, they just start to look forward to their retirement. I can’t imagine living like that. There is so much more life for me to live.”

Being able to experience this amazing life with her husband Henrik has been the icing on the cake for Charlotte.

“Henrik is so awesome,” Charlotte said. “He is the brains and I’m the visionary. We’re a perfect team.”

Henrik and Charlotte have become the power couple of Denmark, making marks in the United States with their teamwork and success.

“It is amazing to see all the success that has come from nothing,” Henrik said. “To be able to do all of that with your life partner is even better.”

The Jorsts enjoy their time together now in their Reno home, seeing their daughters as often as they can.

“My parents have never let their success get in the way of our family, which I’ve always really appreciated,” Camilla said.

Christine is currently a school teacher and Camilla is working and attending school in New York City. They also have three dogs, Nemo, Mimi and Ali. The amount of wealth and success that the Jorsts have would never be expected by how humble they choose to be.

“It was really incredible to watch my mom’s success over the years,” Camilla said. “I learn so much from her.”

“A lot of people ask me how my success has effected me,” Charlotte said. “It’s been amazing, definitely. But I know there are so many things that I’m still not good at.”

Charlotte and Henrik still speak to each other in their native tongue.  Although they jump from Danish to English, their tone of voice and body language when they converse in Danish is intimate. The quirky language is another commonly heard sound around the Jorst household. The way they smile and talk to each other is a clear reflection of the love between them.

“She’s wonderful,” Henrik said.

“Henrik has so much to do with any success I’ve had in my life,” Charlotte said.

For Charlotte, the end of her journey is still far off. Her dreams will continue to carry her from one place to the next, with her family and friends there to watch and support her. She is a true inspiration to all, and will surely be remembered by the many people she has touched in her life.

“I have the most beautiful life in the world,” Charlotte said. “I can’t wait to keep living it.”

Fight On

Fight On

Doyle's dream career is anything involving film, but she has gotten to be apart of many different aspects of the film process during her time at USC. Here, she is seen adjusting a camera. The more experience Doyle has, the better.  Photo credit to Joey Robertson

Doyle’s dream career is anything involving film, but she has gotten to be apart of many different aspects of the film process during her time at USC. Here, she is seen adjusting a camera. The more experience Doyle has, the better.
Photo credit to Joey Robertson

It’s 6 a.m. Sunday and Rebecca Doyle has already been awake for an hour. The sun isn’t even up, let alone the thousands of hung-over USC students. The morning fog rests quietly over the campus. She tiptoes around the room, trying not to wake up her roommate. Rustles and the occasional light switch are the only sounds that emerge from the darkness. She pulls her curly dark hair into a ponytail. Her green eyes are tired, yet sharp and focused. Grabbing her notebook, camera bag and keys, she jogs to the car waiting to pick her up outside.

“Sorry I’m a little late,” Doyle said.

The two girls in the front seats greet her and chat casually about the day ahead of them. Doyle starts checking her phone. As assistant director, she has to make sure everyone is ready for the day’s shoot. She scrolls through her texts, fingers firing like little machine guns at her keyboard. Occasionally, she looks up and asks a brief question to the girls in the front.

“Do we have everything that we need?” Doyle said.

As they drive down the Los Angeles highways, Doyle looks out the window, then forward, then back down at her phone. It’s almost as if she’s working her way down a mental to-do list. As they pull up to the set, she takes a deep breath and opens the car door. She begins to prepare for the long day ahead of her.

 Miss Independent

“Getting here was the most stressful time of my life,” Doyle said.

A Carson City, Nevada native, 19-year-old Rebecca Doyle always had a passion for film. Doyle was intrigued with the many aspects of the business. She worked behind the scenes with the morning announcements at her high school. Running at a thousand miles an hour, Doyle kept herself busy all four years of her high school career. Teachers and faculty all knew Doyle to be a hard worker.

“She was always a very focused and motivated student,” said Carol Verzola, one of Doyle’s former high school teachers. Doyle was also on Verzola’s yearbook staff for three years, and an editor-in-chief her senior year

“She was an indispensable part of my yearbook staff,” Verzola said. “I knew I was going to miss her once she graduated, and I still do today.”

Her high school resume also includes captain of the varsity tennis team, one of the highest SAT scores in her class, captain of Speech and Debate, vice president of the Honors Society and a plethora of other titles and achievements.

Being one of four children, Doyle also stood out in her family life.

“She has so much drive, it’s hard to believe it can all fit into one person,” said Luke Doyle, younger brother of Rebecca.

Carena Doyle, mother of Rebecca and a native of southern England, has had a whirlwind relationship with her daughter over the last few years.

“She’s fantastically driven and utterly single-minded,” Carena said. “That’s not to say that we haven’t had our ups and downs.”

Carena’s outspoken nature and practical view on life has had an influence on the way Rebecca is today.

“It’s much harder to insult an English woman than it is to insult an American woman,” Carena said. “You’re all crazy, I do hope you know that.”

She occasionally laughs, reminiscing about the different moments and stages of her and her daughter’s relationship. Her green eyes light up when talking about her daughter, just as Rebecca’s do when she is working on set.

“Sometimes we’re a little too much alike,” Carena said. “She’s the red flag to my bull.”

Carena and Tim Doyle have raised Rebecca and her siblings to challenge themselves and others. The Doyle household was a place where the best was expected.

Working Girl

Interacting with the other members of the crew is something that Doyle has become very accustomed to. Many of the roles that Doyle has played during her time at USC

Interacting with the other members of the crew is something that Doyle has become very accustomed to. Many of the roles that Doyle has played during her time at USC has to do with communicating with others. Conveniently, Doyle’s second major happens to be communications.

Arriving on set, she hops out of the car and gathers her clipboard and papers. Rushing toward her is the director, sweeping her away with a rush of questions and a list of things to do.

Doyle quietly and diligently carries out her duties, which vary from taking down director’s notes to placing markers for the actors. She interacts with everyone on set, many of whom she has just met this morning. She’s always writing something down. She smiles, laughs cordially with those on set and does anything anyone needs.

Regardless of the amount of sleep she got the night before, Doyle does everything she is asked not only with urgency, but somehow with poise. Her long legs effortlessly carry her from one job to the next. She rapidly jots down words spewing out of the young director’s mouth.

She goes back and forth between being behind the camera with the director and being in front of the camera with the actors. Occasionally stopping to yawn or check her phone, Doyle maintains her stamina throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

“Geez, it’s really early, isn’t it?” Doyle says, as she realizes it’s only 10 a.m. and they’ve already been on set for three hours.

Heartbreak

As senior year began, Doyle realized that her true passion was going to lie with film. Knowing that her field was better served in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, Doyle began to look into going to school out-of state.

“I thought for the longest time that she was going to be a lawyer,” Carena said. “That girl will argue you to death.”

Shelling out a large amount of money for tuition for Rebecca wasn’t an option for her parents.

“My dad basically gave up everything so that we could all go to private schools,” Doyle said. “Giving up more money to send me to big out-of-state school just wasn’t practical.”

“Our family is fantastically average,” Carena said. “Unfortunately, being fantastically average doesn’t give you many scholarships.”

On top of lacking the financial support of her parents, they were also skeptical of her dreams of being a film director. Doyle’s parents wanted to see her daughter succeed and have a stable job.

Every parent worries about their child when they have to let go of their control and send them off into the real world. If that wasn’t hard enough for Carena already, her daughter wanted to study film in Los Angeles.

“The film business is a nasty, dirty business,” Carena said. “It was scary thinking of my daughter in that kind of environment.”

“They just didn’t see it as a viable career for me,” Doyle said. “They just wanted me to be successful and I don’t think they saw success in what I wanted to do.”

The gates that lead into the USC School of Cinematic Arts are an artistic achievement of campus. A newly renovated area on campus, the film school has sound stages that are used by students. These can be found just beyond these gates.

The gates that lead into the USC School of Cinematic Arts are an artistic achievement of campus. A newly renovated area on campus, the film school has sound stages that are used by students. These can be found just beyond these gates.

This mindset from Doyle’s mother made her obstacles even greater. Her concerned parents attempted to steer her in a different direction as far as career paths went.

Never shying away from a challenge, however, Doyle took these obstacles as a growing opportunity. The hard work, she believed, would be worth the potential outcome.

“If Rebecca wants something, you better move out of her way,” Carena said.

“I didn’t want to stop fighting,” Doyle said.

Doyle still ended up applying to 19 different universities. She was admitted to 13 of them. Among those schools, all but three offered her at least a half-ride scholarship.

The ones that didn’t were her top three schools, USC, Loyola Marymount, and New York University. The only way that she was going to be able to attend her #1 choice, USC, was if she received a scholarship that covered enough of the financials.

“I always said she could go wherever she wanted as long as she could pay for it,” Carena said.

“There was a school in Texas that had a great film school, and they were ready to pay for everything,” Doyle said. “But something in me wanted USC more.”

For months, Doyle’s life consisted of applications and admissions essays. She was ready to go to any means necessary to achieve her goal.

“I was at the point where I would literally do anything,” Doyle said. “I was shamelessly calling alumni, begging them for financial help.”

“She was literally killing herself during high school,” Carena said. “She was never sleeping.”

Response emails and returned phone calls were the only hope that Doyle had as her senior year came to a close. The clock was ticking, and sooner than later she would have to decide on a school.

“My parents did the pre-paid tuition at UNR,” Doyle said. “I would have been literally getting paid to go there. I never wanted to though.”

Doyle submitted a scholarship application towards the end of her senior year, and the funding from that would have been enough for her to go to USC.

“I just really felt like I deserved it,” Doyle said.

“That one would have paid 100 percent of her tuition,” Carena said.

The day that she received the news from that scholarship was one that Doyle recalls with a heavy heart.

“It was honestly the most heartbroken I’ve ever been,” Doyle said.

Doyle was a finalist for the scholarship, but did not receive it.

“That was a brutal day,” Carena said.

One scholarship. One email. One click of a button. This is all it took to shatter the dreams of this USC hopeful.

Shown here is the main courtyard of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, also known as the film school. Here is where Doyle spends the majority of her time. In the center of the courtyard is a statue of Douglas Fairbanks, who founded the USC cinema program.

Shown here is the main courtyard of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, also known as the film school. Here is where Doyle spends the majority of her time. In the center of the courtyard is a statue of Douglas Fairbanks, who founded the USC cinema program.

“This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch,” said Joey Robertson, current boyfriend of Doyle. “It didn’t seem fair.”

The day that followed the devastating news was one that Doyle spent in a state of emotional shock. After reading the email telling her she didn’t receive the scholarship, she called her mom from school in tears.

“She was absolutely hysterical,” Carena said. “It was heart-wrenching.”

“I just sat in the yearbook room and cried the rest of the day,” Doyle said. “I don’t think  I went to school the next day either.”

Watching her dreams shatter before her eyes by the news she received that day shook Doyle to her core.

“For that girls entire life, whether it had been in sports or in middle school, she was always outstanding but never recognized,” Carena said. “Not getting that scholarship was kind of the epitome of that pattern in her life.”

“I hated seeing one of the strongest people in my life fall apart,” Luke said.

This happened towards the end of Doyle’s senior year, leaving a bitter feeling in her heart as graduation drew nearer.

“Things were awful,” Luke said. “She was constantly upset and often in tears. I hated it.”

Doyle then had no choice to accept her fate and prepare herself to go to the University of Nevada, Reno.

“She signed that letter of intent to UNR with tears in her eyes,” Carena said.

Action

On set in Pasadena, CA, Doyle helps manage different takes. The same shot is often times retaken dozens of times, and requires patience throughout.

On set in Pasadena, CA, Doyle helps manage different takes. The same shot is often times retaken dozens of times, and requires patience throughout.

“Alright, let’s do that again.”

The director uses these five words over and over. He is like a broken record.

Retaking the same three-second shot at least 15 times would appear tedious to most, but for Doyle it’s getting to experience her dream job. Every time that someone would blink wrong, move too quickly or background noise would interfere, they would have to shoot it again. The fact that it takes a good hour to shoot five seconds of a movie is an astounding aspect of film.

Doyle’s intense nature seems to be replaced by a patient one as she is eager to help with each and every retake.

The hours that were spent on set that day did not reap hours of useable footage. In fact, it was a fraction of that.

What Goes Around Comes Around

As graduation weekend came and went, Doyle tried her best to enjoy what was supposed to be the happiest time of her high school career. In her heart, however, she couldn’t help but feel crushed and disappointed in herself.

“She had to watch her future slip away in a matter of days,” Carena said.

Strong in her faith, Doyle turned to God to help her in her time of need. She began to pray a novena, which is a nine-day prayer. The novena that Doyle prayed was one that was told to never fail.

During graduation weekend, a girl in Doyle’s class came up to her and struck up a conversation.

“I had never talked to this girl in my life,” Doyle said.

“I’d like to say that it was luck, but it wasn’t,” Carena said. “God was watching out for her.”

They discussed plans for after graduation and Doyle ended up sharing her story with this girl. They discussed the issues that Doyle was facing. She shared her disappointment with the outcome of her college dreams.

“The next day, that girl contacted me and asked if I would speak to her father,” Doyle said.

Shortly after graduating, Doyle walked into an insurance office to talk to a man she had never met before. That stranger would be the same man to change her life forever.

He asked her a few questions and they chatted for a bit about small things. He asked her if she had a job and what she hoped to do once in college. He then gave Doyle the most shocking, life-changing news she would ever receive.

“Apparently, his daughter told him about me,” Doyle said. “He then proceeded to say that he wanted to help pay for my tuition to go to USC.”

While recapping the accounts of that conversation, the emotion and gratitude seemed to hang on every word Doyle said. She seemed at a loss for words.

“Even though I’ve retold this story so many times, it’s still so unbelievable,” Doyle said.

This man, with the help of his company, was ready to help Doyle attend her dream school. All he asked of her was that she intern for him at his work for two summers.

When telling people that she dreamed of going to USC, many felt as though someone from Carson City would quickly fail at a big school. This man, however, saw Doyle for the hard-worker that she was.

“Not a lot of people believed in me,” Doyle said. “But that man looked me dead in the eye and told me, ‘you’re going to USC.’”

In Doyle's apartment, her wall boasts what appears to be a random array of posters. All of these movies, however, were director by Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis is one of Doyle's main film role models, and she hopes to intern with him one day. His most recent film, Flight, is featured on the far left of Doyle's bedroom wall.

In Doyle’s apartment, her wall boasts what appears to be a random array of posters. All of these movies, however, were director by Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis is one of Doyle’s main film role models, and she hopes to intern with him one day. His most recent film, Flight, is featured on the far left of Doyle’s bedroom wall.

“Nothing could ever beat the smile that was frozen on Rebecca’s face because of the generosity of that man,” Robertson said.

After breaking down into tears, Doyle went to share the miracle that had just happened with her family. She ran out onto her driveway at home and found her parents.

“I remember she came out crying, and the first thing that I thought was, ‘Oh goodness Rebecca, what now?’” Carena said.

Talking through waves of tears and gratitude, Doyle recapped what had happened. Her parents were just as shocked as she was.

“At first, I just looked at her and thought my daughter had completely lost it,” Carena said. “She must have misheard him, is what I remember thinking.”

After much clarification, Doyle’s parents realized that it wasn’t a miscommunication. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t another rejection. It was a miracle happening right before their eyes.

“My mom cried, which she never does,” Doyle said.

“It was solely because of her unmatched determination that it happened to her,” Luke said. “I really shouldn’t be so surprised that it happened.”

That summer, Doyle was able to intern with this man’s company in exchange for a paid tuition for USC. Without this stranger’s generosity and divine help, Doyle would have never had the opportunity to make her dreams to come true.

“People always tell me that they want to make a movie out of my story,” Doyle said. “I even have a hard time believing it’s real sometimes.”

“It took months for that news to sink in,” Carena said.

For this young lady, she went from the deepest heartbreak she had ever experienced to the greatest day of her life. The unnecessary generosity that she received from a complete stranger makes it possible for Rebecca to live out her dreams every day.

A Success Story in the Making

During her short time at USC, Doyle has already established herself as a success story in the making. In her freshman year alone, Doyle was a part of 22 different film projects. Doyle has done almost every aspect of film production. She has tried her hand at makeup design, producing and film writing.

She received a license to start her own production company at the end of her freshman year. Suspended Reality Productions, which consists of Doyle and three other male peers, started working on projects last summer. They even produced a music video for a local artist, among many other projects.

“We are actually getting paid work now, which is crazy,” Doyle said.

“I already told her what kind of car I want when she becomes rich and famous,” Carena said.

Back to Work

Doyle leaves the set after 14 hours. While most students spend their Sundays in full recovery mode, Doyle chooses to dedicate hers to making her dream a reality. In fact, she dedicates that entire weekend to the film. One that was not even hers.

In that day alone, Doyle accompanies the cast and crew from the original set, the director’s house and then a sound stage to shoot a night rowboat scene. She even makes it back in time to go to Sunday mass.

Once back in her room, Doyle began to mentally prepare for the upcoming week. Not even having time to breathe, she shifts gears and begins to prepare for her next project. Without a day to recover, Doyle begins her next week in Los Angeles, ready for whatever may come her way.

A Big Break

Her most recent and prominent accomplishment was having her short film, Breaking Point, selected to be shown at Trojan Family Weekend. This is a time when families of students and alumni are asked to come down to campus for a weekend. The three other men involved with Suspended Reality were also a part of the production, and presented it with her.

“The only reason Tim and I went was to see Rebecca’s film,” Carena said. “Now, I’m so glad that I went.”

This film is Doyle’s proudest piece of work yet. It was also selected to be shown and at the Catalina Film Festival.

“That short film means a lot to me,” Doyle said.

On this specific set, Doyle worked as assistant director. This job played a large role in the coordination of actors. Doyle was a large asset to the set because of her organization skills and natural sense of leadership.

On this specific set, Doyle worked as assistant director. This job played a large role in the coordination of actors. Doyle was a large asset to the set because of her organization skills and natural sense of leadership.

Seeing her daughter’s film on a big screen in front of faculty, alumni and fellow students was a defining moment for Carena.

“Something about sitting there in that beautiful theatre, watching her present her film and hearing her speak after was so fantastic,” Carena said.

The tears in her eyes caught the lighting in the room as Carena began to talk about Rebecca.

“I was just sitting here thinking, my goodness, I need to support this child,” Carena said. “I am behind her 100 percent now.”

During her director’s speech after the showing of her film, Doyle took a moment to thank those who helped make Breaking Point a reality. She took time to specifically thank on her family.

“She was going on and on, thanking us for everything,” Carena said. “Then she broke down and cried, and then I broke down and cried. ”

In that moment, it was as if the emotional torment and turmoil over the last few years had finally been laid to rest. Carena was able to look at her daughter with pride. She could also feel comfort knowing that Rebecca was doing what she had been born to do.

“I know that there are some bad people in her field,” Carena said. “But maybe she can do a good thing in a dirty world.”

Doyle is greatly missed by her family while she is away.

“I told her if you’re going away to college, you can come home for Christmas and that’s it, because I’m not paying for all those plane tickets,” Carena said. “But I really miss her, truly.”

Doyle didn’t spend last Thanksgiving with her family, but Carena offered to fly her home after spending the weekend at USC.

“I’m so excited she’ll be here,” Carena said. “Last Thanksgiving I had a teddy bear in her spot at the table because it was so strange not having her there.”

Doyle recognizes the kindness that was shown to her by that stranger, and it will not be soon forgotten. She passes that kindness on by staying true to the genuine person she is.

“She has inspired me in so many different ways,” Luke said.

“Rebecca showed me that I was far more than I thought I could be,” Robertson said. “She truly is the light of my life.”

“She was always nice to the odd kids in her classes growing up,” Carena said. “She may be tough but she has such a good heart, and all that kindness paid off in a sense.”

Her kindness and hard work helped her keep pushing through the hard times and she was rewarded at the end.

“One of my favorite parts about going to USC is that it’s a work hard, play hard environment,” Doyle said. “It’s really motivating.”

“That girl is a force to be reckoned with,” Carena said.

She is now currently working toward her dreams of being a film producer and director, and is doing everything she can to get there. Currently a critical studies major, which is a branch of film school , she hopes to one day be admitted into the film and TV production school. She is continuing to work for that on a daily basis. Doyle is also majoring in communications.

“It’s kind of ironic that I worked so hard to get here, and then I’m still not exactly where I want to be as far as my major goes ,” Doyle said. “But I’m getting there. ”

The journey for Rebecca Doyle is far from over. For however long she chooses to follow her dreams, she is going to have to keep fighting on.

“There’s always someone bigger and better than me out there,” Doyle said. “I just want it a lot more than some.”

“I gave her this thing before she went away to school that says, ‘There has never been a day when I haven’t been proud of you, I just make so much noise about everything else it’s hard to tell sometimes,’” Carena said. “I’m so proud, and I know she’s never going to give up either.”

With the help of hard work, a determined mindset, a loving family and a very generous stranger, Doyle now gets to live her dream every day.

Fight on, Rebecca Doyle. Remember the name, because you might see it in lights sooner than later.

“There are days when I am literally fighting back tears on my way to class,” Doyle said. “I will never fully comprehend how lucky I am.”

Doyle's impressive resume has gotten her many connections throughout the Los Angeles area. She claims that is it important to make connections outside of your own university, which is why she often works with those in the Loyola Marymount film program. In the above photo, Doyle is working on an LMU student's senior thesis.

Doyle’s impressive resume has gotten her many connections throughout the Los Angeles area. She claims that is it important to make connections outside of your own university, which is why she often works with those in the Loyola Marymount film program. In the above photo, Doyle is working on an LMU student’s senior thesis.