Thousands of high school graduates in Washington take more than four years to earn a diploma.
Here’s a perspective from three Snohomish County students who went overtime to graduate.
Name: Becca Geahry
School: Lake Stevens High School
Years in high school: 5
Story: Started failing classes her sophomore year after skipping school and ignoring homework. Came close to dropping out, especially after many friends graduated without her in 2005.
Turning point: Credits persistence of mother, Catherine Skelton, for keeping her on track. Started doodling less and concentrating more. Earned her first A during her final semester.
Quote: “I think I finally got fed up with my mom. ‘Becca, you need to graduate.’ So I did it for her, I guess, so she’d get off my back. … That lady scares me.”
Future: Thinking about applying to a video-game animation school, but for now is more focused on moving into her own apartment.
Name: Kari Foudray
School: Aim High School in Snohomish
Years in high school: 6
Story: Transferred to Aim High School to work at her own pace after unexcused absences caught up with her at Snohomish Freshman Campus. “I was being lazy. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I just didn’t want to go.” Slow and steady approach – six years in all – is unusual, said June Shirey, AIM principal. Most in Foudray’s situation would have dropped out or gone to a community college for an adult diploma instead. Age cutoff to earn a high school diploma is 21, meaning an August deadline was looming for the 20-year-old Snohomish woman.
Turning point: At 17, she “grew up.” Credits close relationships with AIM teachers, including Thom Engel’s Shakespeare class, for turning on the light bulb. “I realized, ‘If I don’t get to work now, I’m never going to get a high school diploma.’ … They motivated me.”
Quote: “It’s a sense of accomplishment. It ends one chapter and opens another.”
Future: Undecided. Interested in forensic science and has thought about the U.S. Air Force. For now, it’s work and “taking a breather.”
Name: Starret Carless
School: Weston High School in Arlington
Years in high school: 5
Story: Fell behind early in high school while living in Bellevue. Said she got lost on a large campus and was “kind of a ghost.” Fought depression, skipped school and just wanted to read and sleep. Ended up in court for truancy.
Turning point: Moved to a small school in Arlington where she earned A’s and B’s and passed the WASL.
Quote: “When I came here, I actually felt bad about missing school. I think I graduated because my teachers pushed me and they helped me.”
Future: Headed to Everett Community College on a scholarship.