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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘You don’t have any choice except to grow’: Cecilia Nevada of St. Michael’s Academy harnesses boarding experience into lesson on being ‘able to adapt’

Cecilia Nevada attended St. Michael’s Academy the past year and a half.  (Courtesy)
By Joe Everson For The Spokesman-Review

Every student is one of a kind, but St. Michael’s Academy senior Annamaria “Cecilia” Nevada brings a little extra to the word “unique.”

Nevada estimates that she has been to six different schools in addition to homeschooling for a while. She has been at St. Michael’s for a year and a half, one of several students who board there.

“We have moved around a lot, mostly because of my father’s job,” she said. “My parents had known about St. Michael’s for a while before I came here. The school is known for a traditional academic program, and my parents wanted me to have a stable education. I had fallen behind during the pandemic, so I had to get two years of credit in a year if I wanted to graduate on time. I came here as a sophomore, but I’m leaving as a senior.”

It wasn’t an easy feat, and there were “lots of late nights.”

“There wasn’t a waking hour of the day that I wasn’t working,” Nevada said. “I knew that I was capable of succeeding here, but there was a period when I was 100% sure that I wouldn’t graduate on time.

All that came on top of being the new kid – again

“I’ve never not been the new girl at school,” she said, “and I was always trying to catch up. This has been a different experience for me, but it’s really nice to have a community that I didn’t have when I was homeschooling. It’s nice to see other people with a drive to be educated.”

Nevada attended school in the Philippines for four years during her early elementary years. She was born in New Jersey, but has traveled extensively, an experience that she says broadened her perspective both personally and academically.

“Cultures are so different from country to country, and travel has made me recognize how well we have it here. Education is different, too. In the Philippines, it is more family-oriented, and the reason to become educated is all about striving to support our elders.

“The family unit is prioritized there, and seeing that as a young person keeps you grounded. It has helped me to see that we need a healthy balance between that and working to thrive as an individual. I would love for everyone to have the opportunity to broaden their views.”

One of the most difficult challenges for Nevada has been adjusting not only to differences in culture, but to those in curriculum and teaching styles. All in all, though, she appreciates what her experiences have done for her.

“Boarding at school was a huge adjustment for a while. When you’re boarding, at first it kind of punches you in the face. You have to be independent, and you don’t have any choice except to grow.”

But she eventually found her way through it.

“The secret for me was choosing to be open all the time,” she said. “You can’t really be shy, so I’ve always pretended that I’ve been in my new school forever.

Her teachers have appreciated the different perspective and broad experiences that Nevada has brought to St. Michael’s.

“Cecilia is an artist,” Sister Michael Marie said, “and she approaches life like one. She knows how to look at things in ways that the less creative among us miss. She has added lighthearted variety, too, including comical cartoons that appear on classroom boards and in yearbooks.”

She’s hoping to attend an art school in New York City this fall, but isn’t certain which one.

“I’m so glad I came here,” Nevada said of St. Michael’s, “because it made me grow up faster and to be able to adapt to different situations.”