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Truman High School graduate's dream finally comes true

By MARGO HORNER

The Mirror

Carmen Starr had dreamed of her high school graduation, marching in her cap and gown. But a lot of those nights ended with her waking up in tears.

She didn’t think she could ever do it.

Starr, a single mother, flirted with the idea of dropping out several times before transferring to Truman, an alternative high school in Federal Way, in her junior year. At Truman, Starr found the sense of community and the support she needed to stay on track, she said.

The tears will flow again Friday night when she receives her diploma. But this time they will be tears of joy.

High school has been a long, hard ride, she said.

There were times when she didn’t get along with her adopted mother. She left home at 17 and moved in with an abusive boyfriend. There were dealings with police, restraining orders and women’s shelters.

And then there was the teenage pregnancy. It turns out that the birth of her baby girl, the very thing that could have prevented her from finishing school, actually motivated her to succeed. Jade was born March 23, 2005, and Starr’s attitude about her education and her future changed forever.

“I think it calmed me down a bit,” Starr said.

She started attending classes at Truman regularly and completing her work.

“If I don’t do it for me I have to do it for my daughter,” Starr said. “I’m very motivated on fighting the statistic of young mothers.”

Less than one-third of teens who have children before age 18 ever earn their high school diploma, according to the Web site teenpregnancy.org. Less than 2 percent earn a college degree by the age of 30.

Starr plans to fight the college statistic as well. She will attend Highline Community College in the fall and study small business entrepreneurship and communications. She received scholarships from the Federal Way Lions Club, Federal Way Rotary Club and the Federal Way Principal’s Association.

Attending high school and being a single mom wasn’t easy, Starr said. But attending Truman made it easier.

People didn’t judge her, she said. They allowed her to complete her work at her own pace. And she received school internship credit for her job as an independent contractor at Vandewall Insurance Agency.

Starr’s mother, Sherry Starr, was also a tremendous help. Besides baby-sitting while Starr attended classes, she helped her daughter by setting “the world’s greatest example,” Starr said.

Judie Craft, the principal at Truman High School, said Starr stood out as a strong, determined young woman who attended school, worked a part-time job and raised her daughter.

“She’s outstanding in the sense that she just hung in there. It’s really hard,” Craft said. “It’s an uphill battle and I think Carmen stuck it out.

“I think she beat the odds.”

Staff writer Margo Horner: 925-5565, mhorner@fedwaymirror.com

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