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First time for everything

Wed., May 20, 2009, 9:58 p.m.

There’s a first time for everything.

In 17 days Justin Materne will be the first member of his immediate family to walk across the stage during high school commencement.

Materne, a senior at North Central High School, also will be the first among his parents and four half-siblings to attend college.

“I’ve had a lot of motivation,” said Materne, who’s headed to Washington State University in the fall. He wants to be a police officer.

Materne said his incentive came partly from not wanting to repeat the mistakes of his parents, who he said are addicted to drugs. He lived with great-grandparents for most of his schooling.

“He was always self-determined to be the best he could,” said Materne’s great-aunt, Linda Bushinski. “He just continues to surprise us.”

Materne was among 26 students honored Wednesday during a reception at NC for students who are the first in their family to graduate from high school, go to college or both.

The event included a guest speaker, 2008 NC graduate Erinn Vann, who spoke emotionally about making it to graduation last year. Vann, who said her parents struggled with substance abuse, nearly dropped out her senior year. With the help of family, and with a push from NC guidance counselor Kathy Blancher, she found her way back.

“No matter what you want to do in life, you can achieve it,” Vann told the students. “You achieved high school graduation.”

Graduation ceremonies often focus on students who achieve  academic success beyond the norm, such as valedictorians and salutatorians, school officials said.

But for students honored Wednesday, just getting to graduation is an enormous success, and “a lot of them had to work twice as hard,” teacher Joy Morton said.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, and they deserve to feel celebrated,” she said.

Each student was asked to nominate a teacher who inspired them along the way.

“For a lot of kids they don’t always have the family support they need,” said Assistant Principal Steve Fisk.

“Teachers often fill that need.”

NC graduate Tony Stasch invited his Balboa Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Jim Harrison.

Stasch, 18, sat surrounded by Harrison, his parents Paula and Troy, and younger sister Alison.

He will be the first in his family to go to college, attending Spokane Community College in the fall to study diesel mechanics.

Stasch said he always remembered how Harrison believed in him in elementary school, and he used that to push him forward.

“He just needed to find his passion,” Paula Stasch said.


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