Grad gets her life back on the road

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:53am

There’s a lot about Stacy Woeck, 19, you’d never guess at first glance. Faded freckles cover a round face, long blonde hair falls to shoulders and a childlike voice seems to fit a petite frame.

But Woeck, who graduates from Scriber Lake High School next week, said she’s always been a tomboy.

She spent last summer laying carpet with a crew of about 1,000 men. Most of her friends are guys and she spends her free time driving off-road up mountainsides in her truck. Her career goals include owning a carpet business. And most surprising, she has something of a dark past.

Woeck has one female friend, Jessica Sterkel, who graduates from Scriber next week.

“We’re both into camping and the outdoors and not into makeup,” said Woeck, sitting in the hot sun with Sterkel at a picnic table at the school Friday, June 1. “I don’t like most girls.”

As a child, Woeck climbed trees, played in mud puddles and looked for rocks to sell. She also was teased a lot, and hated school.

“I was shy, and kept more to myself,” she said of her elementary years. “I lived in a three-bedroom apartment with 11 people.”

There was her mom, her mom’s stepsister and her four kids, and her mother’s friend and her two kids. Woeck shared a room with her mother, who worked at a Dairy Queen to make ends meet.

As a young adult, Woeck’s life took a detour.

“I was a really bad teenager when I was younger,” she said. “I was into drugs, partying.”

At 14, she left her mother’s home and went to live with her dad. She dropped out of Lynnwood High School as a freshman, then tried a stint at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, but found the classes too big and help for struggling students scant, she said.

But that year, Woeck got a wakeup call.

She was riding in a car with a friend who was driving drunk and they hit another car head-on. She walked away from the crash unhurt, but it shook her up inside.

“I realized I need to straighten up,” she said.

Woeck also realized that she needed an education if she wanted a future, she said. Another reason for cleaning up was her cousin, now 10.

“My little cousin looks up to me and had an idea of what I was doing,” she said. “I didn’t want her to do those things.”

So at the end of her sophomore year, Woeck quit drugs, abandoned the crowd she was with and came to Scriber Lake, the district’s alternative high school.

Woeck did well there, thanks to small classes and the personal attention of teachers, she said. She got involved with the school’s Women of Wisdom group for girls and was recently named a student of the month with the Edmonds School District.

Scriber also allowed Woeck to work and go to school. For two years, she’s worked as a cashier 35 to 40 hours a week at Arby’s fast food restaurant. She comes to school in the mornings and works evenings and weekends. It’s taken her five years to graduate.

Now Woeck plans to apply to Edmonds Community College and earn a degree in business management. After that, she’d like to own a business that installs carpets in homes.

Her ex-boyfriend’s father owns a carpet business, and this summer she traveled with them to help lay carpet eight to 12 hours a day at new and remodeled Nordstrom department stores.

Woeck was one of two women on site, along with 1,000 men, and worked in 100-degree heat without air conditioning in pants, steel-toe boots, a shirt and a hard hat.

She loved it.

She got along with the mostly over-45 crew “awesome,” she said.

“They all called me ‘honey,’” she said, adding that she had her own personal bathroom so she didn’t have to use theirs.

“It’s hard work — really hard work — it hurts your knees, back, neck,” Woeck said. “It’s very exhausting.”

But it was also fun and she learned a lot, she said.

Another goal of Woeck’s, besides the carpet business, would be to run an off-roading shop. That’s a store that sells equipment for off-roading, a hobby where people drive Jeeps and trucks over rocks, fallen trees, through mud and up hillsides in natural areas. Woeck spends her free time off-roading with male buddies she met through her ex-boyfriend.

But though she can foresee a successful future for herself, she fears sometimes that it won’t happen.

“I’m afraid of failure,” she said. “(That) things will get in the way.”

Things can keep you from your goals, she said. For example, for two months recently she had to care for her 10- and 13-year-old cousins, who have family problems, she said.

Taking care of them, working and going to school was exhausting and hurt her motivation, she said. The cousins have since moved on and the state has become involved. But it’s an example of how family problems can interfere with progress, Woeck said.

At times, the strain of working and going to school has gotten her down, too.

“The other week I was depressed because I still had my senior project to finish,” said Woeck.

She worried about getting everything done, but then glanced at her cap and gown in the room and felt inspired again, she said.

Woeck has since finished the project and is on course to graduate.

Sitting at the picnic table Friday, June 1, Woeck’s friend Sterkel gave her a punch on the arm as she wrapped up the Enterprise interview.

“She made it through high school!” Sterkel said proudly.

Woeck just smiled.

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