When Devin Benzing walks across the stage to accept her diploma from New Vision High School, it will be her second notable accomplishment this year. For someone whose high school career almost never happened, those are two clear reasons to celebrate.
With a certified nursing assistant course having been completed through the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center recently, in which Benzing job-shadowed nurses for several months, she’ll step onstage later this month as one of about 30 New Vision graduates. The diploma carries additional meaning for the 18-year-old – she’s the first person in her family to have finished high school.
However, as notable as those achievements are for the soft-spoken student, they weren’t even on the horizon just a few years ago.
During her freshman year at Post Falls High School, a spate of tardiness and alcohol-related offenses quickly spiraled into her getting expelled from campus. With Benzing and her friends spending their time drinking and partying, the classrooms and curriculums of a traditional high school setting became less and less of a priority.
“My friends and I just didn’t want to go, we had better things to do outside of school,” Benzing said. “It was just some poor choices.”
The native of Madison, Wis., spent the next few months contemplating her future, either pursuing something she loved by obtaining a degree, or finding work in a day-to-day job without an education. She had an interest in nursing, and thought about a career in helping those with special needs since the relative of a close friend had an autistic little boy who she enjoys caring for.
But it wasn’t until she enrolled in the alternative high school her sophomore year, with added influence coming from her parents and friends, that her future really got on the fast track.
About the school, Benzing said, “They get to know you on a first-name basis, and they treat you like an adult … It’s more of a one-on-one interaction and they make it more personal.”
Before long, her former truancies and transgressions became a part of her past, while motivating her toward her future goals.
The New Vision website states, “We believe a quality school experience includes a sense of belonging, respect, a part in decision-making, fun through meaningful and relevant work, and accountability through clear, firm boundaries.”
At first, the transition was difficult, Benzing said, but it was worth the effort. If it wasn’t for New Vision’s unique approach, “I would have quit,” she said. “It was really difficult, and especially hard to not just show up and leave.”
She credits her teachers, whom she refers to by their first names, for keeping her on track to graduate. She also found inspiration from what some of her closest friends and family members had gone through.
“Seeing some of my friends not graduate, that has motivated me,” Benzing said. About the family-like atmosphere at New Vision, she added, “I have a lot of, like, close friends and family who struggled with drug addiction, and seeing the drug addiction; it’s just nice to have someone who can help.”
Benzing cites her parents as some of her biggest influences in life. She said they supported her through the rough times, and motivated her when the heavy workloads of school and job-shadowing had taken their toll.
Loretta Zimprich, a family friend who’s known Benzing since she was a little girl, says the graduation marks a proud moment for both Benzing and her family.
“We’re all very proud of what she’s done in the past few years. Now that she’s graduating on time, plus doing the college work, she’s done a great job, and it’s been her doing everything to make her life better,” Zimprich said, as she fought back tears in talking about how far Benzing has come.
As for Benzing’s future, in which she plans on pursuing a degree as a licensed practical nurse at North Idaho College in the fall, Zimprich has no doubts. “I think she’ll do it. There’s nothing she can’t accomplish once she sets her mind to it. I think she’ll do fine.”