The path to graduation has been long and tough for Harmony Eckert, 19, the notable student from Three Springs High School, the alternative school in the Cheney School District.
“When I was younger, I got into trouble,” she said. “I got into trouble with the law. I had become addicted to drugs. I started doing awful in school to a point I didn’t even go to school. I just quit and didn’t want to put up with it.”
She started her high school career at Cheney High School but moved to Three Springs after her ninth-grade year. Getting into trouble and hanging out with friends who weren’t healthy for her seemed to be more fun than going to school. She dropped out.
But she found a spark within herself after her grandmother, Rebecca Tart, died last year. The two were very close.
“After she passed away, it hit me then. I realized life is too short to be messing around like this. I’m 19 now. I’m getting older. I can’t just ride on nothing anymore.”
She cleaned herself up, which wasn’t easy. Neither was leaving behind her friends from her wilder days.
“It was hard to end the friendships, of course, but I realized that ever since I’m not friends with them anymore, I’m doing better for myself,” she said.
When she returned to school, Eckert made some decisions.
“Everybody can get a GED,” she said. “I came back and decided if I’m going to sit in this school for five years, I’m not leaving without my diploma. I’m not leaving this school with just my GED.”
Part of what helped her get to graduation was her teachers and the environment of Three Springs. She could come in once a week or more if she needed help or time on the computers. She loved that she could call her teachers whenever she needed help.
“A lot of kids are choosing to come to this school,” she said of Three Springs. “What a lot of kids don’t realize, this school isn’t a free ride. You’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to get things done. It’s very independent, but of course, the teachers are always here to help when you need it.”
Now that she’s getting her diploma on June 1, Eckert is looking ahead. She wants to attend Yakima Valley Community College to study veterinary science.
“I’ve been wanting to be a veterinarian since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I used to always tell my mom, ‘I want to be a doctor for animals. I want to help that sick animal.’ Animals can’t tell us how they feel. They feel pain, they feel hurt, they feel abandonment.”
When she’s not at school or doing homework, Eckert has a job as a baby sitter. She’s also working on finding new friends. She writes poetry, reads and makes her own jewelry.
She said she and her mother, Kelly Hill, have been spending more time together. The two had grown apart in the last few years, but they are building that relationship again.
“Just recently, actually, my life has picked up to a good point. I got a job. I’m losing weight. I’m just in a great mood, and I realize that I’m going to succeed in life. I’m going to graduate.”
She’s also thinking about what her grandmother would say to her today.
“She probably would be speechless because she’d be so amazed, so happy. She’d tell me, ‘Good job, Baby Doll. I knew you could do it.’ ”
That spark within herself helped her reach her goals.
“I got here by believing in myself. You, yourself, can only believe in you. You, yourself, can only be strong for you because nobody else can be strong for you. It took a lot. It took a lot of strength. Even when I wanted to give up on myself, there was a part of me that wouldn’t allow me to.”