By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
Q: Today at Everett Civic Auditorium, you’ll walk in Sequoia’s commencement ceremony. Principal Kelly Shepherd, of Sequoia, tells me you took a very unusual path to graduation.
A: My mom took me out of school at 5, after kindergarten. I was supposed to be home-schooled, but she and Dad were working. My sister was supposed to help, but she isn’t a teacher. I was mostly without formal education. Every summer before school started, I begged to go to school.
Q: Why do you think your parents chose not to send you to school?
A: I’m the youngest of six children, and my parents had some issues with the schools.
Q: Your principal explained that as long as parents file an annual declaration of intent to home-school their children, they are in compliance with state law. How did you spend most of your time when you didn’t go to school?
A: I spent time on the computer or playing Xbox. I had three or four friends in the neighborhood. And I was outside a lot, every day.
Q: When did you finally get back into classrooms?
A: I started here (Sequoia High School) as a sophomore. I was 15.
Q: In just three years, you earned 29 credits, more than the number needed to graduate. What motivated you?
A: I’ve always liked to learn. I made a goal, the summer before coming here, to graduate on time.
Q: Did you do any academic work during what would have been your elementary and middle school years? Were you reading?
A: I learned to read early. And math came naturally. When I was 6, I worked my way through a third-grade math book. I did every single page. My parents taught me multiplication. Every now and then, they would have us do math.
Q: When you first came to Sequoia, what was hardest for you?
A: I was in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college-readiness program). We learned leadership skills, note-taking and had to write a junior-level essay every month. Writing was my weakest subject.
Q: What about math?
A: Math was only hard the first week, until I learned the formulas. I’ve completed through precalculus.
Q: Your principal says you’re a gifted artist. One of your pieces is on display in Sequoia’s office. Tell me about that.
A: I do stained glass mosaics. The one in the office — it’s called “See Yourself in AVID” — is made of pieces of black glass and gold mirror. It took two months to make. I did it for Robyn McCleave, my adviser here. She knows my story. They decided to hang it up in the office.
Q: What’s next? Do you plan to go to college?
A: I actually want to be an architect; I’m good at math and art. I hope to go to Everett Community College and live at home. Two of us, my sister and I, are still at home.
Q: What would you tell kids who complain about school?
A: Everybody told me I was lucky, but I really wanted to go to school. I would tell them to go for it. At Sequoia, we learned the lesson “eat the frog for breakfast.” Do your work in the morning, you’ll finish the worst thing you have to do all day.
Q: You’re about to celebrate graduation with about 65 other Sequoia seniors. Are your parents proud that you went to school and earned a diploma?
A: I’ve never seen my mom happier.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.