Sometimes it takes students a while to find their academic wings and take flight. That was the case for Addison Armstrong.
He began attending Mead High School as a freshman, and while he soared socially, he floundered academically. Then, in his sophomore year, he contracted mono and missed two months of school.
“Catching back up proved too difficult,” he said. “I felt hopeless, like I was going to fail.”
It wasn’t that Armstrong lacked the smarts to complete his studies. Instead, he struggled with time management and organizing his burgeoning workload.
It would have been easy for him to give up – to simply stop trying. But Armstrong is no quitter. Midway through his sophomore year, he applied to M.E.A.D. Alternative High School.
“He found the smaller atmosphere suited him better,” said teacher Greg Conley. “He was always capable. He knew school was important, he just lacked motivation.”
Capable indeed. Armstrong quickly began to make up credits.
“My entire life I’ve struggled with organization – with staying on top of things,” he said. “Being able to work with teachers who helped me find a routine that worked for me and being able to work at my own pace really helped.”
Conley enjoyed watching him find those academic wings.
“Seeing a little bit of success, he just took off with his natural ability,” said Conley. “He’s really personable and joined the leadership team in 11th grade. He’s got a maturity to him that kids are drawn to.”
Armstrong said the flexible nature of the school and the ability to discover study habits that worked for him buoyed his self-confidence.
“Once I didn’t have to worry about the snowball effect and had the security that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed, I was able to manage the workload.”
He did more than manage – by his junior year he had caught back up and even worked ahead.
“It was really nice to know I wasn’t going to be looking at five or five and a half years of high school.”
M.E.A.D. is a good fit for students who need that kind of freedom and flexibility coupled with plenty of one-on-one time with teachers.
In addition to natural ability, Armstrong had other qualities that helped him succeed.
“He’s independent and responsible,” Conley said.
Armstrong has had to be. His mother traveled a lot for work, and his father and stepmother moved to California last year.
“I’m good at taking care of myself and my dog,” Armstrong said.
His responsibilities extend beyond home and school. He has spent the past four summers working as a lifeguard for Spokane Community College and the city of Spokane. He recently was hired in guest services at the Red Lion Hotel.
He also gives back to his community.
“This year I started volunteering at Shiloh Hills Elementary,” he said. “I focus on helping kids that need extra attention.”
Pleased to be on track for graduation, Armstrong stretched himself by participating in Running Start. Once again he learned that for him flexibility is paramount.
“I enrolled in the architecture program at SCC but I didn’t like sitting in a chair for eight hours, so I transferred to SFCC to work on my AA degree.”
Conley applauded Armstrong’s efforts and his self-awareness.
“Running Start wasn’t a perfect fit, but he put his nose to the grindstone and worked hard,” Conley said. “It’s a testament to his level of discipline.”
Armstrong plans to move to Boise this summer and continue his education at the College of Western Idaho.
He offers this advice to other students: “Don’t be afraid of trial and error. Experiment with what works for you. If something doesn’t work, try something else. It’s about whatever makes you more successful.”
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