Sitting in blue polyester robes at Tuesday’s summer high school graduation, Stephanie Foxx and Victor Kopachuk had their heads full of the adult world.
Foxx’s world is her 2-year-old daughter, Maddison, whose birth had prompted her to drop out of school. Foxx went back to school to ensure a better future for herself and her daughter.
For Kopachuk, a 19-year-old who emigrated with his family from Ukraine five years ago, the ceremony was merely a diversion from his work at a Spokane restaurant and his duties as head of a household.
The two were among a dozen Spokane School District 81 seniors who completed their degrees in summer school. A total of 450 students in grades seven through 12 attended classes this summer at Central Valley High School.
“These are the ones that have struggled the most,” said Marilyn McClellan, head of the summer school program for District 81. “It makes this satisfying.”
Foxx, 19, dropped out of East Valley High School two years ago after becoming pregnant - “sort of planned, sort of early,” she said. Foxx and the child’s father got married because “it seemed like it would be better for Maddison.”
The couple had planned to work in a hospital together - she as a doctor, he as an anesthesiologist.
But the relationship is dissolving, she said. He now wants to be a boat mechanic, while she is getting used to life as a single mother.
Despite the struggle, Foxx refuses to go on welfare.
“I know kids personally who have as many kids as possible to get money from welfare,” said Foxx. “There needs to be a reform.”
Even while she was out of school, Foxx said she knew she would go back. She has seen the limited career routes available to dropouts - including her father, older sister and two cousins.
She wanted the best for Maddison and knew the best wasn’t available to a dropout.
“You don’t realize how valuable education is until you have to use it later in life,” said Foxx.
She went back to school full time last September at the Havermale Alternative Center. Foxx couldn’t do homework at home because her chirping blond toddler was so active.
“It took me a little longer than most, but I knew I could do it,” Foxx said.
Foxx now is enrolled at Spokane Community College and plans to study at Washington State University’s veterinary program.
Victor Kopachuk’s motivation to graduate also was family: the nine brothers and sisters who depend on him as the eldest male in the house.
Kopachuk’s family emigrated from Ukraine five years ago, as the barriers of communism began falling. Kopachuk said the family emigrated to get a better life and to practice Christianity, outlawed under communist rule.
Back then, visas to the United States still were hard to come by. The Kopachuks were bounced through Austria and Italy before eventually settling near relatives in Spokane.
Kopachuk didn’t speak a word of English his first day of high school in America and learning it was an ordeal. Now, he says he is forgetting some Ukrainian words, although his mother speaks the language exclusively around the house.
“I thought I’d never get it,” said Kopachuk, shy and soft-spoken.
After the family arrived in America, Kopachuk’s father died, leaving Kopachuk as the man of the house. He has worked nearly full-time through school and has worked at least 30 hours a week at Clinkerdagger’s this summer.
He said he is finishing school, in part, to serve as an example to his younger brothers and sister. He plans to take vocational classes at SCC and open his own automobile repair shop.
Kopachuk said he has to take his studies seriously and can’t goof around too much. “I am the oldest example for the family.”
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