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Graduation day and beyond

Storiers by MIKE HALLIDAY, staff writer

SINGLE MOM AND STUDENT

Yolanda Jackson is looking forward to graduation like other seniors.

The cap. The gown. The diploma. The proud parents and family barbecue afterwards.

“It’s one of the biggest events of my life,” the 17-year-old said.

And it will be a big event for her daughter, Mauricia, who may not remember the day her mother graduated from Federal Way High School.

Jackson is graduating today and plans to attend The Bryman School in Phoenix this fall. She wants to be a surgical technician, assisting surgeons and operating room staff.

The program will take 18 months for Jackson to complete, but she is focused. Medicine is a field that has interested her since she was a child, and the addition of her daughter to her life has made the desire to get a degree stronger.

The baby has been in this world for only 18 months, but she is already getting credit for making major changes.

“She made me grow up,” Jackson said.

Jackson has “been able to accomplish both (being a mother and full-time student) in my eyes,” said Randy Kaczor, principal of Federal Way High.

Polite and patient, Jackson describes herself as outspoken and for a time to a fault.

“I didn’t want to have any friends,” Jackson said. And her attitude had a lot of ‘tude in it.

Kim Jackson, Yolanda’s mother, said her daughter’s behavior and attitude were foreign to her parents. They have two daughters older than Yolanda who never got in serious trouble. They wondered what they had done wrong with Yolanda.

But Kim Jackson doesn’t dwell on it too long and looks at making sure her daughter is ready for the future.

Mauricia has mellowed her, Yolanda said. Kim and Yolanda’s father, Maurice, have made sure they remained positive and encouraged their daughter to keep a good mindset. Their church, Rose of Sharon Christian Church, was also supportive of the family, Kim and Yolanda said.

Others have noticed. Jackson says her teachers tell her frequently of the positive changes they see in her.

Kaczor said he has seen Jackson transform into an intelligent young woman with a great deal of maturity from the seventh-grader he knew while principal at then-Illahee Junior High.

She’s also motivated. “She has a clear vision of where she wants to go in her life,” Kaczor said.

School has been hard, Jackson said. She had to stop attending classes the last three months of her pregnancy. A teacher would bring homework to her every day and help Jackson prepare for tests.

When she returned to school, it was full-time. She came in at 6:30 each morning for one semester to get a PE credit, Kaczor recalled.

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