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When Mary Wooten-Justice enrolled at Premier High School last spring, she needed an option that would allow her to complete her senior year of high school in just three months. In May, she walked across the stage with her diploma.

Mary attended Premier her freshman year, but left for her sophomore and junior year. Her school career came to an abrupt stop her junior year when she got pregnant and could not attend school.  She knew if she wanted to graduate in four years, she had to come back to Premier High School.

She knew that returning to Premier would allow her to work at her own pace. She was determined to finish her senior year in three months. “I finished one book in each subject a night,” she said.

Tim Garcia, director of Premier High School of Comanche, said the personalized aspect of the school provides students with options.

“I meet students at Premier with many different backgrounds and goals. My job is to make sure each student has the options he or she need to graduate. There is a minimum of what they must do, but other than that they can work at the pace they need,” said Mr. Garcia.

Mr. Garcia taught Mary when she attended the school her freshman year and was happy to be there to see her graduate. She now wants to be a medical professional.

Mary faced an additional challenge in the death of her stepdaughter during her senior year.  Because of the experience, she plans to study nursing. “My stepdaughter was very sick with a rare disease and I would visit her in the hospital to be with her. It really made me want to be a nurse. I want to help people,” she said.

Students like Mary are what inspire Mr. Garcia. “Her story speaks wonders about how someone in a difficult situation can do more than just achieve their goals, but they can surpass them. It is why I come to school every single day. I know there is a success story for every one of our students. We just have to tap into that drive and motivation,” he said.

Mr. Garcia watched with pride as Mary crossed the stage with her diploma.

She will be moving with her husband and baby girl to Oklahoma for the next 18 months while her husband attends college, but Mary plans to start nursing school when they return.

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