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Shelby Morgan found success with personal drive, school’s flexibility

Richard Morgan, left, had a heart attack and survived because his granddaughter Shelby Morgan, 15, knew CPR. Shelby had just taken a CPR class in school a few days before. Photographed Friday, Mar. 21, 2014, at the Morgans’ Spokane home. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Richard Morgan, left, had a heart attack and survived because his granddaughter Shelby Morgan, 15, knew CPR. Shelby had just taken a CPR class in school a few days before. Photographed Friday, Mar. 21, 2014, at the Morgans’ Spokane home. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Shelby Morgan has been through a lot in her life, but she does not let it define her – she lets it motivate her.

Two years ago, Morgan completed a cardiopulmonary resuscitation course that was required by her health class at school. A few days later, she was with her grandfather when he experienced a heart attack. Morgan stayed calm and used the skills she learned from the CPR class to help him.

“He collapsed the following Monday and I learned CPR the (previous) Thursday,” Morgan said. “So I started and proceeded until the paramedics got there.”

Morgan’s mother, Debbie, died four years ago after a long battle with cancer. After her mother’s death, Morgan’s grandmother helped her transition to a new life without her mom.

“She kind of took the role of taking me to school and parenting,” Morgan said.

Then her grandmother died, less than two years ago.

Patti Torrisi is a para-educator at Riverside Achievement Center who worked with Morgan’s mom for more than 10 years at the school. She credits Morgan’s positive personality for helping her cope with these hardships.

“She has a kind heart,” Torrisi said. “She knows that she’s capable of doing things. She has seen what other people have gone through and wants to make things better to have a better life.”

Morgan will graduate from Riverside Achievement Center in Chattaroy, an alternative high school that provides a flexible educational environment for students who are not thriving in larger schools. The alternative program in the Riverside School District lets Morgan work at her own pace. That flexibility allows her to make some money with various part-time jobs.

“I just really don’t have time to go back,” Morgan said. “I tried going back, but I like working on my own and working ahead.”

She decided to take additional hard classes to give herself more opportunities for success after high school. Despite the added challenge, Morgan has maintained a high GPA.

Riverside Achievement Center Principal Janet Kemp points to her strength in reading for her success.

“If you can read and understand and comprehend, knowledge is information,” Kemp said. “It is a source of making good decisions.”

Morgan has been accepted to the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. To save money, she plans on going to one of the local community colleges in Spokane to get her associate degree.

“I’ve been kind of leaning toward something like veterinary medicine, but I don’t know if I would be good at that,” Morgan said. “So that’s why I kind of want to go to a community college to see where it takes me.”

Torrisi said Morgan’s finances and family were the main reasons she changed her mind.

“She’ll be going to college and getting a degree and doing something,” Torrisi said. “But when you’re young, you do change your mind.”

Whatever Morgan decides to do, Kemp is confident Morgan will be successful.

“I think she’ll plan it out well,” Kemp said. “If she sets her mind to do it, she’ll do it.”


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