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Southern Highlands Prep School students place first and fourth in Nevada Day essay contest

To some students, Nevada Day was just another holiday off from school. But for Kale Aschoff and Jordan Nyitrai, it was a celebration of hard work.

Kale, 12, and Jordan, 12, won first and fourth place, respectively, in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s poster and essay contest to celebrate Nevada’s 150 years of statehood.

The seventh-graders from Southern Highlands Preparatory School, 11500 Southern Highlands Parkway, wrote essays answering the question, “In your opinion, how did adding Nevada as a state change the nation?”

Both students focused on the state’s political and economic history.

“Kale focused on the creation of the state because (President Abraham) Lincoln needed electoral votes to win his re-election,” said Kale’s father Kendell Aschoff, a Henderson resident. “He also tied in the elections of 2004 and 2008 and how Nevada continues to be a wrestling state for (presidential candidates).”

Jordan wrote about how Nevada helped end slavery and fund the Civil War, according to her mother Mary Jo Nyitrai, a southwest valley resident.

“(Jordan) talked about how Nevada helped create the 13th Amendment and end slavery,” Nyitrai said. “She also explained that Nevada was mined for silver which brought money in.”

According to their parents, Jordan and Kale brainstormed ideas and wrote the essays on their own.

“His mom was the campaign manager for Shelley Berkley so he’s been around politics all his life,” Aschoff said. “I think it gave him an advantage a little because not many 12-year-olds know a whole lot about politics.”

The students were notified in mid-October that they had placed among the top five finalists and were invited to Carson City for a ceremony with Sandoval on Oct. 26.

Though Kale could not attend the ceremony, Nyitrai and Jordan flew to Carson City to represent the school.

“It was a memorable experience for her,” Nyitrai said. “The students had pancakes with the governor, and then he brought them on stage and singled each of them out and told them how proud he was. It was really nice.”

Jordan texted Kale from Carson City, saying he placed first in the contest.

“Kale came in yelling, ‘Dad, Dad, I got first place,’ ” Aschoff said. “It’s amazing that two students in the same grade from the same school were in the top five.”

Kale received a certificate and medal from Sandoval, along with a $100 gift card that will go into his college fund.

“He thinks it was a great competition,” Aschoff said. “He was very honored and excited to win.”

Jordan received a ribbon and governor’s coin with a message from Sandoval written on the box.

“She thought it was the coolest thing,” Nyitrai said. “She was very proud and honored not only to be recognized for winning but to be singled out for her hard work.”

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at or 702-383-0403.