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Single mom Kalma wins WAVE, college tuition for two years

Marysville Mountain View High School senior Rachel Kalma is the winner of a 2009 Washington Award for Vocational Excellence. - Kirk Boxleitner
Marysville Mountain View High School senior Rachel Kalma is the winner of a 2009 Washington Award for Vocational Excellence.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Marysville Mountain View High School senior Rachel Kalma, a 20-year-old raising her two-year-old daughter, is the winner of a 2009 Washington Award for Vocational Excellence.

The WAVE program recognizes and rewards students who excel in career and technical education, by paying undergraduate educational tuition for two years at an accredited public or private college or university, or a licensed vocational school. Three WAVE recipients — two from high schools or skills centers, and one from community and technical colleges — are chosen from each legislative district by a selection committee.

Not only did Kalma manage to win this award while balancing classes with supporting herself and her family, but she also did it while coping with the recent loss of both her mother and her grandmother to cancer. Even as she copes with these difficulties, those who know her at Mountain View have commended her for her academic performance and the other traits they believe make her a positive role model for her peers.

Kalma was the daughter of a single mother, and started working at the age of 14 to help support her family. Her jobs included three years at the concession stands of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, followed by almost two years at Paula’s Hallmark in Everett, where she worked until she was almost nine months pregnant. After a period of being a stay-at-home mom, she returned to school in September of 2008.

Kalma first came to Mountain View in 2004, and in that time, she’s attended four leadership classes, organized three food drives and a number of holiday parties, taken part in a Hurricane Katrina relief project and a number of school assemblies, and tended to the school campus in ways ranging from picking up trash to laying down bark in the flower beds. She has also helped out in the same school daycare that her daughter has used, and her ultimate goal is to become a registered nurse. She credited the many doctor’s appointments she went to, after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, with giving her information and interest in the field. She also cited the Mountain View business classes she took as building her strength and ability to work well with a variety of people.

“I came to this school with very little ambition and no goals,” Kalma said. “I had never really thought before about what I wanted to do in life. I was hanging out with the wrong kids, and needed to pull my life together, or I would be no one.”

When Kalma dropped out of school after her pregnancy, she realized that she would need an education to take care of herself and her child. She expressed her gratitude to Mountain View teachers like Jay Belan for giving her the confidence and knowledge to succeed. She again pointed to her business courses as a source of practical skills, that she can apply toward obtaining part-time jobs. Although she’s now a WAVE recipient, she’ll still need to support herself and her child while she attends college.

Belan has expressed his faith in Kalma’s problem-solving skills. He described her as a motivated, self-directed learner who’s among “the upper 10 percent of her peers” and “a natural leader.” He praised her for serving as a mentor to other students and instilling “a positive attitude that is infectious to those around her.” He acknowledged that there have been “periods of time when circumstances didn’t allow for her to be in school,” but he lauded her dedication to getting her diploma and fulfilling her goals, in spite of the hurdles she’s faced.

“Rachel’s word is good when it comes to doing what she says she will do,” Belan said. “She’s a good communicator, and she uses this skill in making the adjustments and exhibiting the flexibility that it often takes to work with classmates in a productive manner. I have confidence that Rachel will take these attributes into the next stage of her educational career.”

Belan characterized Kalma as “a young lady who has lived a lot in her short span of years,” which he believes she has used, without even realizing it, to influence her fellow students for the better, since she’s already experienced a number of the situations that present themselves to her younger peers.

“I was recently at an emergency room, and I had a chance to see how the RNs work, up close,” Belan said. “The critical role they play, in crisis situations, is exactly how I see Rachel’s capacity for both focus and multitasking. It’s the perfect profession for her, and now, she has a shot at doing it.”

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