celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news
 

She has all the moves

Senior found home at Highland after travels

By Karen Welch

Michelle Owens handled moving "all over" California while growing up.

Then Owens, now 17, handled leaving family and friends on the West Coast when her stepdad had a military transfer to Virginia.

Next, she handled a six-month move, in her sophomore year, to North Carolina.

But when her mom, Nicole Whiteside, drove her by her new school - Highland Park High School - in the summer before her junior year, Owens wasn't sure how much more she could handle.

"I was going, 'The whole high school fits in there?'" said Owens, now a senior.

Whiteside informed her that the campus she spied on U.S. Highway 60 actually housed all grades, from kindergarten on up.

"I'm used to my school being huge, with like 30 trailers (portable classrooms) in the back," Owens said. "I was so used to going to big schools. There were hundreds in my class in Virginia. I was scared about meeting new people and making new friends."

She found the small size of her class - about 45 - a little unsettling.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Everyone's going to know my business,'" she said. "But after that (starting school), I was just surprised because everyone was so nice."

Highland Park counselor Melinda Scheller recognized Owens' fear.

"My dad used to drag us around," Scheller said.

Owens, Scheller said, "has really blossomed here. She wouldn't even talk her whole junior year."

But Owens found her voice and direction, even while enduring family changes. Whiteside and Owens' stepfather divorced several months ago.

"Oh, it happens, I guess," Owens said.

Owens and her 16-year-old sister Lashawna Owens, take charge at home, keeping watch over their stepbrothers Brian Arterberry, 11, and Vann Whiteside, 6, while their mother works two jobs, Whiteside said.

"With all the stuff that we're going through," Nicole Whiteside said, "I thought she would be more stressed and school would fall apart for her, but it didn't. I'm really proud of her."

Owens focused on her work, taking dual-credit college classes and earning a spot among the top five Highland Park graduates this year. She will graduate fourth in her class May 29, Scheller said.

Highland Park wound up being "the perfect school," Owens said, because "we have a health science class and phlebotomy. I would love to be a nurse practitioner."

She will enroll in Amarillo College in the fall to pursue that goal, she said.

Editor's note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9 through Friday as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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