When Alannah Rasmusson moved to the small, lake-side town of Harrison her junior year of high school, her grades had plunged and school had fallen to the bottom of her priorities.
By graduation, just two years after transferring to Kootenai High School, Rasmusson has become an honor roll student with a homecoming queen title and many close friends. To top it off, she has her sights set on higher education and a possible teaching career.
So to say that the 18-year-old has bounced back is an underestimation of how far she’s come. She’s prospered. But Rasmusson, a self-described adventuresome tomboy as a youth and a compassionate, quiet student with a strong work ethic as described by her teachers, isn’t the type of person to let her past be a reason to hamper her future.
“She’s pretty remarkable,” said Alisha McDevitt, secretary at the high school and a friend of Rasmusson’s after having her as an office assistant this year. “She’s never used that, she never complains. She’s never let what she’s gone through affect her at school.”
While countless kids go through rough patches, many without ever getting their lives back on track before leaving the classrooms and hallways of high school, Rasmusson, one of four children, has endured nothing short of a complete upheaval in her life.
It was during her freshman year at a Washington state high school that her parents got divorced. “That alone was hard; that was rough,” she explained.
While divorce can be a difficult enough transition for any teenager, Rasmusson said there were problems between her and her father, whom she’d moved to Coeur d’Alene with after the separation. “It was a very tough time,” a reticent Rasmusson explained. “My grades were low, like at a 2.0 grade-point average, just because I was struggling and I didn’t care.”
However, her resiliency and can-do attitude were illustrated when she quickly added that, “It could have been way worse.”
Under pressure at home and struggling to fit in with the larger class sizes in Coeur d’Alene, Rasmusson was uprooted once again, moving in with her biological mom in Harrison.
The situation was exacerbated since the two hadn’t spoken for about nine years. “That was a huge transition,” she said, though adding that it’s been “manageable.”
Despite transferring to a new town and starting all over again almost as if from scratch, she’s been able to adapt to her new surroundings smoothly, said Rene Barros, an English, speech and psychology teacher at Kootenai High School who’s had Rasmusson in several classes.
“She very quickly made a number of friends. This is a very talented group of seniors, and for Alannah to come in as the new student and fit in as well as she has is remarkable. She’s really carved out her own niche,” Barros said.
And you won’t hear any woe-is-me stories from Rasmusson, she added.
“She is not the kid who says ‘I didn’t do the work because …’ I think a lot of the students look at her and realize that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to,” Barros said. “She is probably coming from a tougher place than many.”
The graduate’s upbeat attitude and hard work recently garnered the attention of the scholarship committee, who awarded Rasmusson with a $5,000 scholarship. She’ll put the money to use at North Idaho College in the fall.
As for what advice she’d have for students going through a difficult time, Rasmusson said it’s important to be yourself and not lose sight of your goals. Even though adversity has made her a stronger person, “It doesn’t affect who I am,” she said. “Just be yourself and don’t let hurtful things affect who you are or stand in your way.”