Joey Zayas wasn’t afraid to discuss the path that brought him to River’s Edge High School in Richland.
The graduating senior told the crowd gathered in Chief Joseph Middle School’s auditorium that he pleaded guilty to a crime in 2009. He said it wasn’t until two years after that he realized it was up to him to make something of his life.
He’s now living in a group home, has a job and plans to attend Columbia Basin College in January.
“As a kid I remember my parents teaching me that you get what you pay for and you earn what you work for and it took me the longest time to really put that in perspective,” he said.
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Thirty-four members of the 54 students in the Class of 2013 were at the alternative high school’s graduation ceremony Friday.
Each student who spoke at the graduation mentioned personal challenges in getting to graduation but also made sure to thank those who believed in them and motivated them.
“But aside from the things I learned, I met amazing people,” said graduate Richela Wilburn, as she choked up while at the podium.
Valedictorian Antonia Heay Stewart pointed out that every student had a different personality, be it rambunctious or shy, but there is one thing that connects them.
“Our determination is what got us here today together,” she said.
Joey, who won several awards and scholarships, was stern and serious throughout most of the ceremony, even as other graduates laughed, smiled or fought tears.
But at the end, just like everyone else, he smiled and raised his diploma high when Principal Dan Chubb announced the Class of 2013.