Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NC, Rogers students honored for being first in family to graduate

Sitting between her grandparents Brian and Barbara Pierce, North Central High School senior Lacey Sutton, 18, attends the First in Family Celebration at the Davenport Hotel on Wednesday night. (Colin Mulvany)

Lacey Sutton is the first in her family to graduate from high school, an accomplishment the Spokane teen calls a decent start.

“I don’t like to feel too proud of myself, because I’m not all the way to my goal,” she said. The North Central High School senior will boast when she graduates from college.

Sutton said her family struggles with poverty and addictions. When she saw herself heading down a similar path, “I asked myself if that’s really what I wanted to do.” The answer: “I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed.”

Sutton was among more than 50 students honored Wednesday night for becoming the first in their family to graduate from high school or the first family member to head to college. The annual event started in 2009 to recognize North Central students. This year, it expanded to include Rogers High School students.

On average, about 35 students from each of those schools will be the first in their family to graduate from high school.

“You are not just changing your life, you are changing the lives of your family,” Rogers Principal Lori Wyborney told students at the event.

While the crowd enjoyed a catered dinner, graduates had the opportunity to talk about their accomplishments and honor teachers who inspired them.

Mia Sanchez faced personal and academic obstacles in her first years at Rogers. But she turned it around, determined to become a 4.0 student. She is one of the school’s valedictorians and is also class president.

Sanchez recognized her adviser, Billie Smith.

“It’s an honor,” Smith said. “I don’t see myself as that important or think that I do anything super well. This means a lot.”

Smith said Sanchez wrote her a note last year that still evokes emotion. It said: “If I don’t make it into the military I want to be a special education teacher like you.”

Sanchez will attend Boise State University next year.

While attending Rogers, Jordon Roth faced homelessness. During his junior year, he did his homework by flashlight. He’s graduating with a 3.8 GPA and plans to attend Whitworth University.

He honored teacher and coach George Roth.

“It’s obviously a great honor,” Roth said. “It’s why we get into the profession. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to shape kids’ lives.”

Not all students had an opportunity to speak to the crowd about earning a high school diploma, but perhaps North Central student Thomas Johnson described their sentiment the best: “I’ve accomplished something no one else in my family has been able to do.”

These kids broke the cycle.

First in Family started in a hallway of North Central with a homemade pasta dinner for high school graduates and their parents.

When a local philanthropist recently learned there are first-generation high school graduates, he wanted to help honor them. Larry Moran and a friend worked quickly to arrange a space at the Davenport Hotel and funds for a catered dinner.

“We are proud to partner with the staff and students of Rogers and North Central to reinforce the fact that graduating from high school will have a positive impact on the rest of theirs and generations to come”

North Central Principal Steve Fisk hopes to expand the celebratory event to include all high schools.

“This is our chance to tip our hats to these kids authentically.”