Editor’s note: This is the third of four reports on graduates from Eastmont, Wenatchee and WestSide high schools and Wenatchee Valley College.
WENATCHEE — Rosy Barraza feels bad for her math teachers.
“I was a pain,” she said. “I hated it. I wouldn’t do anything. And I’d get so frustrated.”
They didn’t let her give up, though.
“They would say, ‘Rosy, it’s OK. You got this,’” she said.
And she did, eventually completing three years of math credits in a quarter, which helped the WestSide High School student graduate, not only on time, but early.
“I got through it,” she said. ”It felt so good. I did it. I was so proud of myself. I worked hard for it.”
She technically graduated in April, a couple months ahead of schedule, but will join her fellow WestSide graduates — 80 in all — at commencement exercises Thursday celebrating a milestone some didn’t think was possible.
“One hundred percent of our graduates at some point in their high school career were ready to give up and have had one or more obstacles placed in front of them before coming to WestSide,” said Principal Kory Kalahar. “ We are so very proud of each one of them for their accomplishments.”
WestSide, Wenatchee School District’s alternative school, allows students to work at their own pace, with smaller classes and more teacher attention. It’s open to all students, but most transfer from other high schools, hoping to catch up on credits missed for a variety of reasons.
That was how Barraza landed at WestSide.
Her family moved to Wenatchee from California during the summer between her freshman and sophomore years. Her grandparents, Catalina and Jose Flores, and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins live in the valley, but the move wasn’t Barraza’s idea and she wasn’t happy about it.
They had traveled here for her 15th birthday celebration and to work during the summer, then decided to stay.
“I didn’t want to move here — the thought of a new school, a new house, a new state. I didn’t know anyone but family. I didn’t have friends,” she said.
Her freshman year in California was rough.
“A friend of mine got killed and it was really hard on me,” she said.
Mikey Medina, a childhood friend, died in September 2015 after being stabbed trying to break up a fight.
“He was the one I always talked to. He believed in me,” Barraza said.
She enrolled at Wenatchee High School as a sophomore, but was missing some credits and had the option of switching either to the Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center or WestSide to catch up.
Her mom, Maria Partida, and grandmother weren’t sold on either one, but after hearing about the smaller classes and ability to set her own pace, Barraza decided on WestSide.
It took time, but with support of teachers, staff and students, she found her footing.
“I still have some of the friends to this day that I met when I moved here. They helped a lot,” she said. “They were there for me when I didn’t know anyone. I’m grateful to them.”
She used the memory of her childhood friend as motivation.
“He believed in me. I remember him saying that, so that made me try harder,” she said.
Kalahar and crew also helped.
“The principal was always there. All the staff, really, were helpful. Everyone was motivating me to be successful,” she said.
She got so comfortable, she admits she took her time turning in the final packet.
“I could have finished earlier, but I didn’t want to graduate. I love WestSide,” she said. “I can be myself there. It’s fun.”
It took a nudge from her brother, Joshua, 16, who is also a WestSide student, catching up on some math credits.
“We hang out,” she said. “I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to graduate. He just said, ‘Leave already.’”
She agreed. “The time has come,” she said.
As her high school graduation goal neared, her thoughts turned to college and career.
Her parents didn’t go to college.
“They didn’t have that opportunity,” she said. “They came from Mexico and work during the summer in the orchards. My mom kept telling me, ‘This isn’t the life I want for you.’”
Barraza’s goal now is to be a social worker, working with children. She plans to start this fall at Wenatchee Valley College and transfer to a four-year university to complete her bachelor’s degree.
Kalahar has no doubt Barraza will do well.
“Her persistence and perseverance helped her through life’s challenges,” he said. “We just are so proud of her and love her so much. Go Rosy and take on the world!”