Montgomery County, Tennessee – Sometimes the most important part of a choice is what you do with the consequence. For Zachary Delatorre, 17, he was done with letting a few bad decisions define him. Zach will cross the stage, overcoming more than one obstacle, graduating from high school in the first class of Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) Adult High School.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Zach said. He struggled against outside pressures and was warned that he was on a dangerous path. “[Since middle school] I was told I wouldn’t graduate and I would be a dropout, and that was disheartening,” he said. “It made me feel like a failure. It made me want to drop out of school.
Seeing the potential in Zach, Dr. Kim Sigears and several teachers stepped in and encouraged him to imagine a different future. Dr. Sigears wanted him to focus on school, ignore other choices, and invest in himself.
“Once I made the decision to continue in adult high school, Ms. Tracy [Dewese] gave me hope; the staff gave me hope. He had several people in his corner who believed in his abilities. Zach thanks Mrs. McKnight and Mrs. Sparn of Clarksville High School for continuing to believe in him. He insisted more than anything, “My mom and dad gave me hope not to give up and kept cheering me on.”
Once students are enrolled in adult high school, school counselors work with each student individually. They create a plan to help students complete their other graduation requirements. Each student’s needs are different, and staff remain flexible and supportive as they work toward graduation.
For Zach, adult high school ignited the belief that he had failed. “I’ve never had such an opportunity,” he said. “It was really good for me. It was different.” There was freedom to work independently. The teachers helped with the subject but allowed Zach to control the pace. He found the ability to self-direct to be a welcome change in learning style.
“In the morning, I walked through the door. Mrs. Tracy always greeted me and walked me back to class. There’s a lot of positivity there. The positivity drove him to keep pushing himself. The supportive environment was what he needed. “It was the best administration and the best staff I have ever seen. I felt comfortable.
There were still times when the situation became almost overwhelming. “What got me through the whole process wasn’t self-motivation. I’m anxious and can get overwhelmed with my thoughts. But I learned to do one thing and move on to the next. Sometimes I just had to do it. I learned a lot of patience for myself. If I didn’t have patience for myself, I wouldn’t succeed. He stayed focused, especially when he considered everyone behind him to support him. “I thought, ‘My grandma and my uncle are from Nevada. So I just have to do this.
As he confidently plans his future, Zach looks forward to a career in the trades. “I want a career in HVAC or welding,” he said. These highly demanded and qualified professions will give him the foundation to build a better future. He credits a course he took years ago with initially sparking his interest in a career as a welder.
“I like working with my hands,” he explains. “In first year, I took an agriculture course. We had 4×4 sheets and we were welding the sheets together to make a birdhouse.
Zach’s journey is proof that you can’t be sure which path life will take, and it’s always possible to find an opportunity if you’re willing to put in the work. The impact of his success has yet to fully resonate. Soon, he will join the other 97 graduates from adult high school. “It will hit me on Wednesday when I walk,” he laughs.
“It feels good to know that not only did I prove everyone wrong, but I finally believed in myself and saw that, yes, I can do it once I put in my mind and my heart. I struggle with anxiety and ADHD. I was able to overcome this and see that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.