PUHS Valedictorian Nicholas Dekhtyar. Photo by Dottie Farrar

Nicholas (Nick) Dekhtyar, the 2023 Patagonia Union High School (PUHS) valedictorian, is heading to Columbia University in New York on a full scholarship at the end of the summer, where he plans to study physics. 

During his four years at PUHS, in addition to the regular curriculum, Nick, the son of Janelle Starr-Koch and Jan Koch, completed math and science courses online (partly due to the pandemic). At PUHS, Nick participated in student government for three years, was a member of  the soccer and tennis teams for all four years and was captain of the soccer team his senior year. 

Summers found him participating in special programs at the Whipple Observatory, Notre Dame University, Brown University, Borderlands Restoration, and the University of Arizona. On weekends, Nick worked as a landscaper in Sonoita and Patagonia.

Nick felt fortunate to attend the Elgin School for elementary school. “It was a great, supportive  environment, and I had truly wonderful teachers,” he said. “I have known Nick since he was in elementary school at Elgin,” Nate Porter, PUHS history teacher and athletic director, said. “He is a dedicated student who will always push himself to be the best that he can be in everything that he pursues.” 

The four years at PUHS were very happy, productive ones. “There are 70 kids at the high school, and they mix together very well,” he said. “You get to know everyone. The 13 seniors are close-knit, and the teachers and the whole Patagonia community are extremely supportive. My happiest memory of high school is our last field trip to Castles and Coasters, the medieval theme park in Phoenix.”

Nick will fly to New York. He plans to “start fresh,” and isn’t taking many belongings with him on the flight. “I am more excited than nervous about college,” he said. “I will be going from one of the smallest cities in Arizona to the biggest city in the country. There are so many aspects of the city I want to explore, including a jazz club, since I love jazz. I am an only child, and I know my parents will visit. I will go home over the long Christmas break and maybe for the summer.”

“There are so many people that I want to thank for their help and support, especially my family and friends and all the teachers here at PUHS,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Thanks to the people at the Patagonia Museum and my landscaping buddies. I give special thanks to the Professors at the U of A, especially Greggory Hodgins and Paul Rogozzenski. Most of all, thank you to my parents who have supported me all the way, all the time.”

Nick’s advice to PUHS students is “You will do well as long as you put yourself out there. Long story short, hard work pays off at the end.”