May 24, 2012 in Washington Voices

M.E.A.D. student soars on stability

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Katie Sprague is a senior at M.E.A.D alternative high school.
(Full-size photo)

Katie Sprague has a lot to celebrate. Not only is she graduating from high school but last May she also was officially adopted by Brandon and Paula Sprague.

For a girl with a troubled childhood, finding a forever family as a teenager has been nothing short of miraculous.

“I came to Washington from Florida in 2008,” she recalled. “I was 13 and having family issues.”

She entered the foster care system and was placed in Brandon and Paula Sprague’s home. Adjusting to family life proved difficult at first, she said.

“I’d never had any structure,” Sprague said. “I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. It was an unhealthy environment.”

While living with the Spragues, for the first time “I learned and saw what normal families do and how they behave,” the teenager said.

But the most significant change involved her education. “Before foster care, I didn’t go to school,” Sprague said.

As high school approached, her parents felt the independent learning atmosphere of Mead School District’s alternative school, M.E.A.D. (Mead Education Alternative Division), would be the best fit for her. They were right; Sprague thrived.

“It was obvious Katie was a smart kid who just needed a little consistency in her life,” said teacher Curtis Barville of M.E.A.D.

Though school hadn’t been part of her childhood, Sprague found herself enjoying the academic and social structure of regular school attendance. “I loved M.E.A.D.,” she said. “They helped me break old habits and made me realize what I had going for me. I could open up to my teachers and they helped me.”

What Sprague had going for her was a tremendous amount of energy that when channeled was “wonderful to watch and experience,” Barville said.

Barville said though initially Sprague was on the receiving end of peer support, “By 11th and 12th grade she was on the giving end. She’s a mentor.”

As she reflected on her high school years, one event stood out to her. “I organized a feed for the homeless at Truth Ministries,” Sprague said. “I raised the funds and got the volunteers. I’m really proud that I got to do that.”

Sprague credits her stable home life for her transformation. “It’s a completely different lifestyle,” she said. “Brandon and Paula are now my parents, so I call them ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’ It took a while to call them that.”

She plans to enter the military following graduation and hopes one day to become a commercial airline pilot.

Barville thinks the sky is the limit for his student. “Going from a life that’s messy to being an anchor for others – that’s impressive.”

Sprague’s excited to see what the future has in store, but she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. “I belong to a family that’s healthy and stable now,” she said. “But there are kids out there without hope. I was one of them.”

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