Class of 2012: Student found the will and a way

Ashley Martin’s story should give hope to every student who has wondered if the goal of high school graduation is beyond their grasp.

Entering her junior year at ACES High School in Everett, she was so far behind on her credits, she didn’t think she would be able to graduate on time.

There were other problems, too. “I turned into one of the stoner kids,” she said. “I was stoned in class and didn’t remember anything the teacher had taught me.”

Her turnaround, which came during the summer between her junior and senior years, was so dramatic that on Thursday night, she not only graduated but was awarded three scholarships.

“I’ve had the opportunity to watch a very wonderful transformation,” said Marcie Polin, school principal. “It’s remarkable. That’s what sets her apart.”

Ashley is one of thousands of high school graduates from Snohomish County this spring. Each has a story, a few of which are included here.

Jacob Sears: Cancer couldn’t keep grad from his diploma

Navpreet Kaur: Born in India, she values two worlds

Joe Stavig: A leader behind the scenes, he lets others seek spotlight

Sara Deeter: Her dream of becoming a teacher starts at Yale

Truman Walker: A star on court, track and field

You Min Lee: She learned her way around a new culture

Ashley is enrolling at Everett Community College with a goal to train as an emergency medical technician, and perhaps become a paramedic.

All this from a student who at various times during high school failed an honors course, was spotted walking across a play field as she skipped out of school and temporarily left home after arguments with her mom.

When she went out to meet friends, Ashley said she would lie to her mom about where she was going. “It caused a lot of arguments,” she said. “I made myself think that everybody was against me because I didn’t want to listen to their advice.”

“We had our ins and outs,” Ashley’s mom, Colleen Martin said. “I think she thought I was trying to control everything because I wanted to know where she was at.”

Ashley left home. She got a job at a pizza shop. And she moved in with a cousin in her early 20s who lives in Everett.

“She noticed that I had some bad habits and wasn’t acting myself,” Ashley said. “She said, ‘What happened? You’re different now. This isn’t the cousin I was so close to.’ “

Ashley said her cousin talked to her three times about her marijuana habits. Finally, she gave Ashley an ultimatum: “If I wasn’t going to listen to her, she wasn’t going to give me a place to stay anymore.”

Ashley got the message. She said she hasn’t smoked since.

The summer job in the pizza shop taught her some life lessons. “I guess the people at work showed me there’s another side to life,” Ashley said. “You don’t have to do what everybody else does to have friends.”

She used some of her earnings to pay for the upkeep of a horse, named Angel, boarded in Snohomish. Horseback riding is a hobby her mom had loved as a teen and an interest they could share.

In August, Ashley moved back home. She still had a lot of work ahead of her.

“Her being out in the world for a while really woke her up,” Colleen Martin said. “She changed her priorities.”

Sharon Brown, a para educator at ACES, is just one of the school staff who took notice. It was Brown who had spotted Ashley skipping out of school the year before.

“It’s incredible,” Brown said. “She became very strong and knew exactly what she needed to do.”

In March, Ashley was selected as a Rotary Club student of the month.

By chance, she met a member who is an Everett paramedic. He arranged for her to accompany them on emergency response calls. The experience turned out to be far more than simply an interesting way for Ashley to complete her senior project.

She thought she would be scared and nervous. Instead, she experienced the excitement that occurs when a teen grasps the possibility of her future. “I decided it’s what I really wanted to do,” she said.

Her focus and dedication have been rewarded with a $2,300 Gertrude Jackson Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of former U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson’s sister, one quarter free tuition at Everett Community College through an Excellence Award, and $1,500 from the Friends of the Mukilteo Library.

“This year, she’s been focused and delightful and motivated,” principal Polin said. “She’s got a good future. She knows what she needs to be doing to be successful.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

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