June 3, 2010 in Washington Voices

Student credits turnaround to family, counselor; nursing now her goal

Juli Bergstrom-Wasson juliwasson@gmail.com

U-Hi’s Shaylin Coburn slowed down in the commons long enough for a photograph, before heading home to study after school last month. She turned her life around after being behind in courses at the end of her junior year.
(Full-size photo)

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It wasn’t long ago when University High School student Shaylin Coburn figured she’d miss out on the Pomp and Circumstance March of her graduating Class of 2010.

But the determined teen beat the odds and will be among those whose name is called when diplomas are handed out June 12.

The Spokane-area native, daughter of Michelle and Scott Coburn, faced her academic challenges head-on when directed and supported by school officials and her family. And she ultimately regained the ability to believe in herself and her education.

Difficulty began for Coburn soon after arriving as a freshman at U-Hi. She says she experienced a series of setbacks that included anxiety and boredom. By the end of her freshman year, she had failing grades and truancy issues stacking up against her.

“I’m a little embarrassed. I had good intentions coming in,” she said. “I thought it would be different. Work-wise I was prepared,” said the former student of Central Valley School District’s smaller, nontraditional and more personalized Summit School.

“I had trouble with the size of the school and the amount of people, the different types of people.

“I passed four classes my freshman year. I had a pretty good idea then that I wasn’t going to graduate on time. … I knew I was acting like a lost cause.”

In the years that followed, school amounted to a few good grades and good trimesters intertwined with anxieties and other issues that left her missing three weeks of school, for example, during her junior year.

But it was about this time – behind by 10 classes – when she had a heartfelt discussion with her mother that helped her realize her potential and her goal to graduate on time. It was also when high school counselor Kathleen Steblaj introduced her to the Net Program, a 12-week program offered through ESD 101 that offers credit-deficient students the chance to re-enter their home high schools and graduate on time.

Coburn attended the program between her junior and senior years. She admits that focusing on academics during the spring-and-summer program was challenging, but said she remained committed and enthusiastic.

“She did really well and started this year on-track to graduate with her class,” said Steblaj. “She has done exceptionally well this year and has really turned her life around.”

Coburn met course expectations and also met the continued stipulations through her senior year before receiving final credit: no failing grades; no more than three absences per trimester; no discipline issues.

Coburn also has remained active beyond studies, serving as manager of the high school gymnastics team and completing a senior essay about nursing along with job shadowing at a nearby doctor’s office.

“I know I’m smart enough to graduate,” she said. “I started looking into how GEDs differ from diplomas. I just wanted to be better for myself and my family.”

She’s also thankful for her counselor. “I don’t know if I would have done as well without her here. She gave me the options and my family and extended family were my support network.

“I haven’t had anything below a B this year,” said Coburn, whose goal is to become a nurse.

She’s sure to have a cheering section that includes siblings, parents, aunts and uncles during graduation ceremonies, because as Coburn explains: “They all had some part in it.”

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