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Move to West Auburn High meant the difference to these seniors | Class of '13

Kelly Partridge and Ryan Hendrickson received a new start and found success at West Auburn.  - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Kelly Partridge and Ryan Hendrickson received a new start and found success at West Auburn.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Editor's note: The Auburn Reporter salutes some of the best graduating seniors from each of the Auburn School District’s four high schools.

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Kelly Partridge was the shy girl who used to shut herself away with a computer, the inhibited girl who once talked only to the people she couldn't avoid, the girl who never joined anything.

That was last fall.

That Kelly would have been gobsmacked to see what she would become in just a few months.

In Partridge's shoes today, a gregarious person, a joiner who is secretary of the Associated Student Body, president of the Career, Technical Education (CTE) Leadership Club and a member of the school's Book Club.

Crucially, she's also a young woman who graduates this weekend from West Auburn High School, teeming with plans to attend Green River Community College next and to begin working toward becoming a nurse.

"If you had told me last year that I would be part of all these clubs and leading assemblies and getting to be prom queen, I would have said, 'No, who are you? It's all lies,'" Partridge said with a laugh.

Guess there's a lot to be said for a simple change of place.

Between her freshman, sophomore and junior years at Auburn Mountainview, Partridge was sick a lot. Eventually, she fell so far behind in her classes that she wasn't going to graduate on time.

That was a major bummer.

"It's pretty hard to find that out," Partridge said.

At West Auburn, however, she found an unexpected welcome mat out for her.

"I like it so much better here," Partridge said, smiling. "People are a lot nicer, it's a lot easier to get help, because I'm not very good with math. And they have an actual geometry class here, with, like, maybe five kids tops in there, so I can always get help when I need it.

"... I feel like, since it's such a diverse group of kids here, there weren't any cliques like there are in a typical high school. It's a small enough environment that everyone sort of knows everyone and talks to everyone. We're very welcoming of our new kids."

What about the stigma of attending "that school?," a place "where the bad kids go?"

Partridge has heard the stories. But, she says, they're a crock.

"It's funny because there are very few kids here who are bad kids. A lot of the time the bad kids don't even show up to school, so you don't see them. We just get a bad rap because it's the alternative school."

Ryan Hendrickson

Dropped into a sea of humanity at Auburn High School, Ryan Hendrickson began to flounder.

"It was so big," Hendrickson recalled of AHS. "I didn't talk to anyone, I just stuck to myself."

The incoming freshman was also 6 feet, 2 inches tall, 240 pounds of solid muscle — and painfully shy. The type of kid, he said, who'd turn bright red whenever anybody talked to him.

Some seniors took the big boy standing a head above them as a threat and began verbally abusing him.

His grades nosedived.

"I failed all my classes in my freshman year, right up until the last weeks of the semester, then I'd rush to get my grades up just to get the D, and they'd just fall back down," Hendrickson said.

Parent-teacher meetings became a regular, painful occasion, generating bafflement all around as to why this obviously bright student was failing.

One day his best friend, Daniel, who was also failing his classes, told him about he planned to get his game back on track at West Auburn.

Intrigued, Hendrickson talked to his parents about the school, and they OK'd the move.

So, halfway through his sophomore year, despite all the warnings about attending "that school" and how "someone's cousins's best friend's goldfish's best friend got jumped at West," Hendrickson cracked, he switched.

At first Hendrickson took only virtual classes, which did not require his physical presence. He spent too much time goofing around on the computer at home.

At the end of his junior year, however, his best friend, once a year behind him, graduated. At that point Hendrickson was only halfway to the 15.5 credits he would need to graduate. He took his girlfriend's advice and returned to day school.

"Best decision I ever made," Hendrickson said. "Now I'm only graduating a year late, and in the almost two years that I've been back in day school, I have 19 credits. I've gotten 11 credits in a two-year span."

Along the way he discovered something else about himself: he's good at accounting and enjoys it. Having taken every business class offered at West Auburn, Hendrickson plans to attend GRCC and earn his bachelor's degree in network security and administration there.

"My entire family thought I was just going to drop out, and so did I. I debated it so many times," Hendrickson said. "Now my goal is to become chief financial officer for a corporation."

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