High school grads took own paths to success

Gennie Zartman watched her nearly 2-year-old son ride his tricycle in July when a woman hopped out of a car and made a beeline toward her.

“Come take a walk with me,” said Maurene Stanton, who arrived unannounced.

Zartman, 19, walked alongside Stanton, the principal of Weston High School, a small alternative school in Arlington, as Nathan pedaled on ahead.

Stanton explained she had been offered a new job but would remain at Weston on one condition.

Zartman must graduate.

The pair had invested too much for either to quit on the other.

“I wanted to be here to sign that diploma and to hand it to her,” Stanton said.

Zartman also had news for her principal: She was pregnant for the second time.

But she promised she would finish school.

So this year, Zartman and her boyfriend, also a Weston student, have been packing their two children, ages 21/2 and 4 months, into their car seats in the back of their 1990 Honda and driving to school.

High school has been an unconventional five-year journey for Zartman.

Coming out of middle school, she was considered a long shot to graduate.

She failed more than half her classes in the eighth grade, but mastered playing hooky and covering it up.

She was among 40 students who were part of the inaugural year of the district’s Freshman Academy, which aims to catch students with poor academic records before they fall behind.

When her mother moved to Eastern Washington for a job three years ago, Zartman chose to stay behind. She keeps in close contact with her mother.

She has lived with the grandparents of her boyfriend and her two children, studying while her kids sleep. Next fall, she plans to attend Everett Community College.

It would have been easy to quit at many points along the way, but Zartman had a promise to keep with her principal and others to think about.

“Dropping out was not an option,” she said. “I have to set a good example for my children.”

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