Junior takes on extra classwork to graduate one year early

It takes a lot of extra work to do what one Wrangell High School student has done to get a jump on her future.

Junior Adriana Nelson will graduate with this year's senior class in May, having satisfied all the coursework to do so. But it wasn't easy. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 3% of high school students nationwide graduate early.

"I had to take three extra classes," Nelson said last Thursday, while taking a quick break from class. "Then I have an (on-the-job training) that happens after school with Brian Ashton with this plane he's building."

Nelson, 17, has moved to Wrangell every year during winter with her parents and little sister since seventh grade. Her parents fish commercially.

"I'm from Yakutat, so I have to come down here every year," she said. "I usually miss the beginning of the school year, usually the first three months for commercial fishing. I'm from a town of 500 and the school only has about 70 kids from Head Start to 12th grade. That school is very out of date."

"To do what's she's doing is tough," said Bob Davis, assistant principal the high school. "It took a lot of work. She's an athlete. She played basketball last year but had to give it up this year to do this."

Graduating early means Nelson will no longer need to move between Wrangell and Yakutat, which will be a relief, she said. "Moving back and forth was a real struggle. I missed a lot of school even after I came here."

Along with her packed school schedule, Nelson had to fulfill the senior project requirement to graduate one year early. She chose to work with Hospice of Wrangell on its Christmas Tree Lane annual fundraiser.

"When I picked the project, I didn't expect it to be like it turned out," Nelson said. "I just thought it was a Christmas event for fundraising. After working with (supervisor Alice Rooney) for a couple of months and asking her a bunch of questions, I realized it was more of a community event that happened every year."

Nelson helped with the Dove Tree ceremony, setting up the Christmas trees at the Nolan Center and preparing the silent auction bid sheets. She also created the fliers to advertise the event last December.

Taking shop classes and working with Ashton on his twin-engine airplane project, Nelson has discovered an interest in avionics and will attend school for aviation mechanics in Clearwater, Florida, after graduating.

The fact that Nelson won't be graduating with her own class isn't lost on her, but she's fine with going through this year's pomp and circumstance.

"I kind of feel like it doesn't change very much," Nelson said. "I'm ready to get out of school and start something new."

Nelson has been able to maintain high marks in school, despite having so much extra to do. She continues to earn A's and B's.

"A lot of kids talk about (graduating early), but very few kids can follow through with what Adriana did," Davis said. "She's worked hard."


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