Mt. View, A&T grads overcome obstacles to graduate (slide show)

TULALIP – You can’t stereotype students at Mountain View High School on the Tulalip campus.

One graduate got a diploma Thursday evening after finishing her junior year.

One not only got a diploma, but also an Associate in Arts degree from Everett Community College.

And one, student speaker Blake Horenstein, graduated at the ripe old age of 21.

“It took longer than I’d like to admit,” he said, smiling. “Seven years is a long time. But I knew since Day 1 it would be an uphill battle.”

He said he learned a lot – inside and outside of school. He worked hard, sometimes harder than others. “But we’ve overcome whatever obstacles” that came our way, he said. “There’s a lesson in never giving up.”

Horenstein this past year he thought it was over. But so many people came through to help and encourage him to keep going.

“There’ve been tough times but we made it through it,” he said. The other student speaker was Anita Bradford-Diaz. She also said she thought of giving up, but kept going thanks to her support group. She said even though other people sometime look down on them, “Here we are. We should all be proud.”

MVHS is called an alternative school, but Houser said the students there are as good as any.

“You have concern for one another,” he said. “You’ve pulled together many times.”

He said many of them have overcome many challenges, but that is a part of life.

“Graduates – you are ready to tackle a new set of challenges,” he said.

Houser said he has been impressed with the staff at MVHS in his first year there as principal.

“They give a little extra help to every student,” he said. “We’re the lucky ones in that we get to watch you grow,” he told the students.

Houser said he would continue the tradition started by the previous principal, Dawn Bechtahl, of having students go through a receiving line at the end of the ceremony, exchanging hugs with students and staff.

“I’m a hugger,” he said with a smile.

Later that night, 53 students graduated from Arts and Tech High School.

Like Horenstein, Cage McFarland had so many obstacles he didn’t think he could make it. He had problems with relationships and finding a place to live. Since ninth grade he tried to be in school as much as he could, but there was one problem after another. “I kept thinking about dropping out but I never did,” he said.

Teachers at the school kept after him to keep trying. “It took countless hours a week,” he said of catching up on credits.

As for advice for others who have issues with school, McFarland’s advice is to, “focus, focus, focus. And if you stumble ask for help.”

Three classmates and teacher Paul LaGrange spoke during the commencement exercises.

Valedictorian Abagail Pierman advised her classmates to, “Give life everything you have.”

Of the future, she said, “Uncertainty is just another word for opportunity.”

Salutatorian Brad Uker A&T is a special school. While they may have tough lives away from school, when they are there they support each other and are a community. “There’s no band, no sports, we create our own culture,” he said. “We learn more about each other than at most schools.”

He said it might be tough for some to move on. “We are comfortable in this community,” he said.

Class president Mitch McNair said when they were freshman they were “fumbling around, bouncing off the walls or wanted to be left alone.”

But thanks to the “true” teachers there, who teach more than academics, the students turned their lives around.

She said she learned more about “tolerance and acceptance there than anywhere else.”

Another thing they all learned, “No matter how much you want to quit – don’t.”

The students selected LaGrange to speak for the staff. He said life is picking up and starting over – then repeat.

He had some tips for the graduates. Some include:

•Never let a minute go to waste.

•The world needs your participation.

•Stand up for what you believe in – with kindness.

•Do not solely be defined by your job.

•Laugh.

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