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October is National Dropout Prevention Month. Since 1986, graduation rates have improved nearly 10 percent across the country, but there is much work left to do. National Dropout Prevention Month dedicates October to keeping that trend going upward and to ensuring that all are aware of the ongoing need for dropout prevention research and model programs until our nation’s dropout rate reaches zero. Learn more at dropoutprevention.org.

When Kylie Terpsma began her freshman year of high school battling a lingering illness, the Bellingham, Washington native wondered how she would be able to attend school while traveling to Seattle every other day for therapy and treatment. But when her vice principal introduced her to the Insight School of Washington (ISWA), Kylie started on her path to academic success.

Now a 20-year-old ISWA graduate, Kylie embodies the definition of resilience and perseverance. With the help of ISWA, Kylie was able to complete high school despite her illness and life struggles.

“At the time my illnesses were not diagnosed, and traditional school was too difficult around a two-hour drive to Seattle and back every other day,” Kylie said. “I knew I wanted my diploma so I spoke with my principal, who referred me to ISWA. After that I spent my entire high school life with ISWA and it was the best choice I ever made.”

Thanks to ISWA, Kylie was able to academically thrive, even when facing homelessness her senior year after both of her parents lost their jobs.

“My family lost their jobs and we became homeless due to a lack of new jobs hiring that time of year,” Kylie said. “Being homeless was a battle of never-ending things. I often had to go days without doing homework due to lack of internet, or spend the one hour that was allotted on library computers. It was the hardest year of my life.”

For three months Kylie lived in a motor home and had to complete her homework wherever she could find a source of Wi-Fi. However, due to her circumstances, this was not always possible. There was a long period of time where Kylie was unable to complete her assignments and risked failing her senior year. But despite her hardships, Kylie remained motivated to finish her schooling and did not let anything hold her back.

“Regardless of everything I went through, my main desire was to graduate on time,” Kylie said. “I didn’t want to spend another year in high school; I wanted to begin my future that fall.”

With the immense amount of determination and the flexibility ISWA gave her, Kylie was able to finish her senior year despite not having a home.

“It was a really difficult journey, but if you set a goal of ‘I want this by this point’ and have the determination to stay on track, you will,” she said.

When her grandparents took her in for the final two weeks of the semester, Kylie was able to complete an entire semester’s worth of assignments and ultimately completed her senior year.

“The biggest thing I had was my own desire and determination. I absolutely wanted my diploma, and nothing was going to get in my way,” Kylie said. “I also was extremely fortunate to have a grandmother who was supportive of my learning. I know I was extremely lucky, as not many people have that support system that I had. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to accomplish a feat of that magnitude along with a very good internet connection.”

Kylie also attributes her academic success to ISWA’s “awesome” curriculum, as well as her supportive teachers.

“I want to give out a few shoutouts to Linda Stroud and Soozie Hummel, who were my teachers, advisors, and my senior project advisor,” Kylie said. “However, I loved all my teachers. They were easy to talk to, to learn from, and were always willing to help me, especially when I was homeless. They’re not only your teachers – they want to see your success.”

Now studying biology at Whatcom Community College and planning to transfer to Western Washington University next fall, Kylie credits ISWA with preparing her for her future endeavors.

“I went to a technical college nine days after graduating from ISWA, and my classwork was all online, which I absolutely loved because I was used to using the system,” Kylie said. “Then when I graduated and came back to school at Whatcom, I took online classes and excelled significantly.”

Hoping to attend medical school and become a neurologist or neurosurgeon, Kylie remains a successful and heavily involved student. She is currently a member of the Alpha Xi Nu chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society. She is also an active member of her church and works as a dietary aide in an assisted living facility, all while exceeding academically in her classes.

“I am now on the dean’s list and have a 3.8 GPA, along with being involved in programs that have a lot of scholarship opportunities,” she said.

Kylie attributes her academic success to the tremendous support of ISWA.

“ISWA helped me so much,” she said. “Without ISWA I would’ve most likely dropped out of school and never be in the position I am now. Without ISWA I would not be who I am today.”

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