EVERETT — Hayley Harden, 17, moved around a lot before her mom settled in south Everett with her and her sisters. It took a toll on her grades, but she’s worked her way back and is on track to graduate this June thanks to ACES High School, an alternative program in the Mukilteo School District.
Question: Have you always gone to ACES?
Answer: I lived in Utah my freshman year, and halfway through that year I moved to Colorado for six months. So my ninth-grade year was kind of messy. My tenth-grade year I started out at Mariner, but I didn’t like it because it was overwhelming, just super big. So I switched here and have been here ever since.
Q: You grew up in Utah?
A: I was originally born in North Carolina, then I moved to Florida for a bit, but I don’t remember that. Then we moved to Utah, and were there for about nine years.
Q: Some tough family issues were involved in all this moving, too. It must have been hard to focus on school.
A: My ninth-grade year was not fun. I’m still trying to recover all those classes. … When I’m at school, I try not to focus on family things. I’m focusing on being on time, getting my work done, keeping my grades up.
Q: Do you know what you want to do after high school?
A: I’m in cosmetology at Sno-Isle (TECH Skills Center) right now, so that’s what I’m leaning toward. I’m learning about all the college things, like what it would cost. … I’m leaning toward hair. I haven’t learned coloring hair yet, but I have a feeling that’s going to be my favorite. I’m really excited.
Q: Do you change your own hair color a lot?
A: I keep my hair red — I like red. It used to be a bright red, with purple roots. When that grew out, I went to this.
Q: How does it feel to be getting ready for what’s next?
A: I try not to think about it because I’m trying to focus on getting what I need to do right now. It’s still overwhelming to think about the future. I still have to find scholarships and apply for college.
Q: What do you do outside of school?
A: I work for the Mukilteo Boys &Girls Club. I’ve worked there for almost a year. I’m a counselor kind of, on staff. I watch the kids. We have a schedule and I help them with homework. We have crafts, activities and free time. I’m playing volleyball, too (for the club team). I’m busy, busy, busy. Some days I don’t get home until 8:30. It’s very exhausting. But I’m still getting all my stuff done, passing all my classes.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I like coloring — that’s something that’s my stress relief. I like listening to music, watching TV — just sitting down, relaxing. But I also like being at work because I’m not alone. When I get home, I’m sad because I’m lonely. I miss the kids.
Q: Do you have a favorite TV show?
A: My favorite TV show right now is “Heartland”; it’s like a horse show.
Q: Do you have anyone who has been a mentor or who has inspired you?
A: I kind of have two people. The first one is definitely my boss. She’s helped me through so much. … The second one is my mom. She has had a lot of struggles. I look up to her, for still being alive and being there for her children.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone just starting high school?
A: It’s going to be hard. But you’re going to get through it. You’ve just got to keep pushing — even if you don’t want to. I still tell myself that this year. I can’t wait ’til the day I graduate. It will be the best feeling.
Q: Your mom must be really proud of you.
A: Yeah, she keeps telling me that.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-339-3432.