June 7, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Grad takes it step by step

Post Falls’ Sloniker downplays difficulty
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Post Falls High School’s Stephen Sloniker was able to overcome a difficult home life and graduated on June 2.
(Full-size photo)

Inside

Page 3: A list of seniors and graduation details.

For many students, high school is all about drama. For Stephen Sloniker, a Post Falls High School graduate, school was where he could leave the drama of his family life behind and find success.

Sloniker, 18, was born in Eastern Washington but spent most of his childhood in Missouri. He relocated to Post Falls two years ago to be with extended family after his father was convicted of burglary and sentenced to five to eight years in a Kansas prison.

His mother, Catherine Sloniker, lives in Coeur d’Alene. Sloniker lives with his older brother, Joshua, and two younger siblings in Post Falls. Until this year, when he suffered from an admitted case of senioritis, he maintained a 3.8 grade-point average, said Post Falls counselor Doug Sabata. Even this year, when he’s struggled with attendance, Sloniker is pulling a 3.5, putting him in the top quarter of Post Falls graduates.

“He’s a hard worker. He’s very nice,” Sabata said. “It’s amazing that he’s done as well as he has.”

He’s moved around a bit in recent years. Sloniker spent his freshman year at a high school in Seneca, Mo., his sophomore year in Greenfield, Mo. He started at Post Falls as a junior.

“In comparison with the other schools I went to, it’s a pretty nice place,” he said.

Sloniker doesn’t have much contact with his dad, who has about three years left on his sentence. He does get letters, which help, he added. He said he looks forward to seeing his dad upon his release.

Sloniker admits that the struggles of his family’s past have left a mark on him.

“It can be a distraction,” he said. “But if you focus on one thing and give it your all, it’ll all work out for you.”

And it has worked out for Sloniker. He’s on track to attend North Idaho College in the fall. He’s applied for scholarships and is putting the finishing touches on his financial aid paperwork.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a new experience.”

He intends to enter NIC’s criminal justice program and pursue a career as a police officer.

It’s a decision, he said, that wasn’t significantly influenced by his father’s legal issues.

“It was something I always wanted to do from childhood,” he said.

Academically, he most enjoys his honors physics class. Other favorite subjects include math and English, especially the creative writing assignments. He said he’s an avid reader who enjoys works by Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien and other fantasy writers. Outside school, he enjoys what he called the “standard stuff”: TV, video games and hanging out with his younger brother, Joseph.

The relationship between the siblings – Sloniker is one of seven kids – is what gives him strength, he said.

“Everything that’s happened to me has had an impact on who I am,” he said. “It’s made me more resilient, stronger, tougher. It’s also made me rely on my family more.”

He’s not talked a lot about his family troubles with his peers at school, he said. A few people know, but not many.

“No one’s ever given me any trouble about it,” he said. “Those who do know are generally supportive.”

He knows that there are other teens out there with difficult home lives and offers a piece of advice.

“I would say, just take it from day to day,” he said. “Your family is always a good source of support. If you rely on them, that’s a good source of help.”

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