For some Blaine students, success is a struggle
By Jack Kintner
Many awards and accolades will be passed out at Blaine high school’s graduation ceremony, set for Thursday evening June 14, but there are always other students who deserve recognition for a job well done even though their accomplishments may not win any prizes.
Here are two graduating seniors, Ashley Harden and Tabitha Adams whose road to graduation involved overcoming experiences that might have ended their high school careers prematurely, but didn’t.
Ashley Harden grew up fast as a sophomore in high school in Gaylord, Michigan, when her brother Derrick came home badly injured from the front lines in Iraq.
“He was shot and hit with shrapnel from a car bomb,” Harden said “and ended up at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.” Harden left school to go with her mother Deborah to help him recover and later on with his rehabilitation and missed the second half of her sophomore year.
“January 19, 2004 is a date that we think of as his new birthday,” she said, the day he was injured. His right leg was amputated and surgeons had already marked his left leg for amputation as well. “Then he woke up and told them no, not to take it, and then showed them he could wiggle his foot,” she said.
did the night shift and I did the day shift,” said
her mother, Deborah, “cleaning his wounds and helping
in therapy. She’s very strong and determined, and
has always liked to help people.”
She and Derrick are the only two in her family to graduate from high school, though two others in the family of six kids have GED certificates.
In Ashley’s case graduating on time meant making up the credits for the semester she lost helping her brother. Her family has known other tragedies as well, including the death of a three-year old niece and problems her siblings have had. “I saw them kind of go off the edge and decided that I wanted to make my life different,” she said.
By the time she showed up for her
senior year at Blaine high school last October, she had
worked her way back to where she was only one-half credit
behind. A normal semester in high school is worth three
Ashley said that she found Blaine to be a fun place. Along with close friend Jordan Perry she’s found ways to be a kid again, like fishing for bass in Lake Terrell. She credits English teacher Lisa Laskey and contract learning independent program coordinator Laura Nelson with helping her to earn a 3.5 GPA as a senior. “She’s always been there to help,” said her mom, “which is one reason I don’t want her to leave. We’ve been through so much together.”
Tabitha Adams will attend Bellingham Technical College (BTI) next year on her way to becoming an electrician like her dad, with whom she is very close. His work as a substation operator for Bonneville Power brought the family to Blaine three years ago from Vancouver, Washington.
smaller than my old high school, Fort Vancouver, where
we had 4,000 kids,” she said, “but
it’s friendlier here. It’s a good place.”
A month after arriving, Tabitha’s mother found her in what turned out to be a diabetic coma so severe she thought her daughter had died.
“They told me that if I’d been 10 minutes later getting to the hospital that I would be dead,” she said. Instead, doctors at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham sent her to Children’s Hospital in Seattle where she stayed for the next 10 days.
“I have type one diabetes,” she explained, “and will eventually need a liver and kidney transplant.” Adams was giving herself up to eight injections a day until recently fitted with an insulin pump she wears on her right hip.
Among other costs of getting so sick, she missed so much school that she flunked algebra. “I was at Children’s for about 10 days, first in intensive care and then in my own room,” she said, adding that seeing other kids with much worse diseases helped her get some perspective on her diabetes. “It left me weak, though. I went down to about 87 pounds.” Normally, she said, at 5’4” she weighs in at 115.
Adams began her academic comeback the next year by taking two algebra classes as a junior, and this year qualified for and enrolled in AP algebra. Her GPA went up from a 3.5 the first semester to 3.7 this semester.
An artist, she likes photography and sketching. The bright and articulate 17-year-old could easily go to any of a number of colleges but after graduating she’s headed for BTI, modeling her career after that of her dad.
“Blaine is a small school, but the teachers are here to help, and they sure helped me,” she said, “and I’m glad I’ve been here.”