Maxwell Pickard, 18, at Darrington High School on April 25. He’ll be attending the University of California San Diego in the fall and plans to study computer science. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Maxwell Pickard, 18, at Darrington High School on April 25. He’ll be attending the University of California San Diego in the fall and plans to study computer science. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Darrington grad’s biggest achievement is ‘beating the odds’

Maxwell Pickard was born in Vietnam and adopted soon after. He’s now headed to a California university.

This is one of a series of profiles of exceptional high school graduates from Snohomish County. They are among the thousands of students graduating this spring, each with their own story of academic achievement, creativity, leadership and determination.

DARRINGTON — Maxwell Pickard credits the people in the small town he calls home for getting him through hard times.

Pickard is graduating this year from Darrington High School. He’s been on the same campus since preschool, with most of the same people. His senior class includes about 30 students.

Pickard is among thousands of local high school graduates taking part in June commencement exercises. Darrington celebrated its graduating class on Saturday and most other schools will follow in the days and weeks ahead. Pickard also is among six graduating seniors profiled in Sunday’s edition of The Daily Herald.

Next fall, he plans to attend the University of California San Diego where he hopes to study computer science.

Pickard, 18, has been president of multiple clubs in high school, including ASB. He also manages a couple of the sports teams.

“He’s irreplaceable,” said Buck Marsh, superintendent of the Darrington School District.

Pickard is graduating this year with his brother, Alexander Pickard.

Both were born in Vietnam to different families. Alexander is eight days younger. They were adopted at 8 months by their fathers, partners Alan Pickard and Michael DeDear.

“I think my biggest accomplishment is beating the odds,” Pickard said. “I mean, to come from virtually nothing and living such a strange, unorthodox life in a small town, it’s interesting.”

The family moved to Darrington around the time the boys were starting school. Just before Pickard and his brother entered high school, the Oso landslide happened.

Seven months later, Alexander was diagnosed with leukemia. He now is cancer-free.

“That time was really tough,” Pickard said. “I took on a lot of responsibility at the house. It’s kind of that moment where I grew up in a way.”

Pickard joined the football team as a freshman in high school. That season he got two concussions within weeks.

His parents decided to take him off the team.

“I love football, it’s my favorite game,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to come back and play, but it’s too dangerous for me.”

He became the team’s manager the next year, and has been in that role ever since. He manages the basketball team when football is over.

Pickard won’t have a home to come back to in Darrington after he leaves for college. His parents and brother are moving to Palm Springs after graduation.

Even so, he knows he’ll be back.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I’ve always seen myself as Darrington folks put it, a city boy. But there’s something special about this place. You can’t really describe it.”

At times Pickard has felt like an outcast, he said. There aren’t many people in his hometown with Asian heritage, and nearly no one knows what it’s like to be adopted by parents who are gay.

Over time he’s met friends who always have his back and teachers who support him, he said. He’s come to realize that everyone grows from their own experiences.

“We’re all different,” he said. “It’s OK to be Max Pickard.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter:@stephrdavey.

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