Education Matters: Student triumphs over adversity to graduate

FRESNO, California - It was a ceremony steeped in culture – one in which graduating seniors from Fresno County high schools were celebrated and honored.
 
It is also a ceremony organizers say has been criticized because of it’s focus on African-American students – the sorority that puts on the event says it’s important.
 
“We spend so much time on the negative, we want to take time out to celebrate the accomplishments. And so when we see the remarks on social media why the focus, we say why not,” said Lisa Nichols of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
 
So on this day at the African-American high school recognition ceremony. There was no talk of high dropout rates, poor academic numbers – but words of praise and encouragement.
 
Many faced obstacles on their way to this moment. Students like 17-year-old Kolby Lee has a story to tell.
 
“I don’t think there is one feeling that I can put to this feeling that I’m feeling right now at this very moment; it’s surreal,” said Kolby Lee, a graduate of Edison High School.
 
Up until two weeks ago, Kolby didn’t even know if she would officially be able to say the words that meant so much to her – graduating class of 2017.
 
“I didn’t want to be a summer grad; I didn’t want to be 2018. I wanted to be the class they told me I was going to be,” Kolby said.
 
KSEE24 first brought you the story of Kolby’s determination to graduate with her class last year. During her freshman year of high school, Kolby suffered a brain injury that caused her to miss the end of her first year of high school and all of her sophomore year.
 
“Kolby came to use at the end of her sophomore year,” Cambridge Continuation High School Principal Pete Pulos said at the time.
 
She spent her entire junior year at Cambridge while at the same time attending night school all in an effort to make up more than 100 credits.
 
“It was hard. You wake up at 6 in the morning – you have to be on a city bus to go all the way on the other side of town to a continuation school which you’re at for four hours – then you have to hurry up and get on the bus home which gave me about 10 to 15 minutes to freshen up – then you’re back on the bus to night school,” Kolby said.
 
That journey continued when she enrolled at Edison to complete her senior year where her counsellor said she came in still behind in credits. But determined to not only graduate on time but be college ready
 
As someone who had never experienced one full year of high school uninterrupted, participating in activities like this senior meeting was important to this young lady.
 
A time for seniors to say their goodbyes to each other, tying a ribbon on the wrist of someone who encouraged them along the way.
 
But when that moment came for her to walk across the stage as an Edison High School graduate – class of 2017 – that was all Kolby’s hard work and determination.


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