By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Elsa Chavez-Chavez’s face lit up as she talked about graduating from McNary High School in front of her parents, younger brother and sisters.

“Since I’m the oldest one, I wanted to be the first to graduate from high school and get a diploma so my parents could see me,” Chavez-Chavez said. “I just wanted to prove everyone that doubted me that I wasn’t going to graduate and I am now. I’m so excited.”

Chavez-Chavez, one of three Keizer students to receive a 2017 Turnaround Achievement Award, wasn’t sure she would graduate on time a year ago.

“I was slacking and it was hard to concentrate and then all the family problems going on were super stressful,” Chavez-Chavez said. “My friends all supported me and pushed me. I stayed after school and met with teachers. I don’t miss as much school. Now I have good grades, As and Bs.”

Claggett Creek eighth grader Betsy Serpas Quintanilla, who went from making mostly Cs to As and Bs, also wanted to be a good influence on her younger siblings.

“I want to be a model to my little sisters,” Quintanilla said. “They say that the little siblings always follow your footsteps so I want to make sure they do good as well.”

Quintanilla has roles models of her own in her mom who took care of the family when her dad left and her older sister, Sarai, who is finishing up nursing school in El Salvador.

Quintanilla wants to be a lawyer and thought if she was going to go through that much school, she might as well begin to enjoy it. Playing soccer and volleyball and running track and field, Quintanilla also needs good grades for athletics.

Whiteaker eighth grader Matthew Warner had behavioral and academic issues, spending most of the seventh grade in the principal’s office while failing many of his classes.

After going to counseling during the summer, Warner decided to make a change.

“I thought I should stop doing what I was doing and start actually acting like a grownup,” Warner said. “I stopped fighting with people and started listening to the teachers.”

Warner, who now makes mostly As and Bs, has also found classes he enjoys like computers, shop and foods.

“I really didn’t like people and I didn’t like teachers because I didn’t like school at all,” Warner said. “Now I really like school because I have all my friends here and I get to hang out with them more often.”

The 23rd Annual Turnaround Achievement Awards were sponsored by Town & Country Lanes. The recipients were honored at a banquet on May 16 at Keizer Civic Center.