When Alexia Schaad, 17, graduates from Post Falls High school this month, she will also be earning her associate of arts degree through North Idaho College.
Six days later she intends to move full time into Lewis and Clark College’s PACE Program (Pathways to Accelerated Certification and Endorsement), which will yield for her a bachelor of arts degree by the time she is 19.
And she is the first in her family ever to go to college.
To say that she is focused on her education doesn’t begin to tell her story, a story which might not have turned out as it has in most other circumstances.
Schaad’s parents, Kourtni and Joe Schaad, met as teenagers in California. Kourtni became pregnant when she was 15, and Joe, only a few years older, had recently returned from a behavioral camp in Mexico. They were young people on a rocky road.
Kourtni was able to graduate from an alternative high school, one which allowed her to take baby Alexia with her to class; Joe did not return to high school, but rather began working construction jobs to support them.
“My father, who was a delinquent boy, tells me I was their saving grace,” Alexia Schaad said.
The teenage couple married and moved to the Coeur d’Alene area, where she worked in service sector jobs and he continued doing construction work.
And they took care of their baby, with their son, Austin, 12, arriving a few years later. “They came here with nothing, nothing but me,” Schaad said, who added that while her parents, who are still happily married today, didn’t particularly have a focus on education, they have always been very present in her life and supported her in everything she wanted to do.
“They took on a big responsibility, wanting more for me than they had, and they gave me what they never had.”
Schaad’s mother is one of seven siblings, many of whom live in the region.
“I’m the oldest of 30 cousins,” Schaad said, “so every weekend growing up, there have been at least 20 family members who get together to cook and have fun. It’s a lot of quality time.”
As long as she can remember, Schaad has loved reading, but as much as she loved books, she was a slow reader. She was enrolled in a class that helped her develop reading skills, and she’s been a voracious reader ever since.
When she was in middle school the family moved to Post Falls, and in high school she took honors courses throughout, including classes counting toward a college degree. She has participated in student government, DECA and the North Idaho Science Fair. In her junior and senior years, most of her activities have been focused in the community, particularly through Real Life Ministries, where she has led a middle school group and participated in a worship band. She also works as a barista.
Her parents gave her the warm safe family she needed to flourish, she said, and “my teachers kept me going and gave me the educational support I needed to get here.”
Schaad is especially drawn toward mentoring young people, including her cousins, and plans to become a teacher of middle school students.
“I know what I got from my teachers and how some of them kept me going educationally,” she said. “Now I hope to be that person in the lives of students in my classroom.”
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