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Straight-A Rebel lives on his ownBy Cheryl Berzanskis
Don't ever bet against Pete Baker. He's an odds breaker.
The 18-year old is about to graduate from Tascosa High School on May 30, bound for either the U.S. Air Force or West Texas A&M University.
Baker, the fifth of seven children, is on his own and has been for five years since he and his siblings were abandoned after a car wreck stranded his family in Arkansas.
His parents left the children in pursuit of truck driving jobs. Baker lived with various relatives before returning to Amarillo for his junior year at Tascosa High.
But unlike students whose parents monitor their child's every move, Baker is on his own in every way.
He works 35 to 40 hours per week at Dyer's Bar-B-Que to support himself and shares a house with friends. No one pesters him about homework.
Baker was forced to live the life of an adult while he was just a kid. But that's where the odds breaking comes in.
Given the facts about his life, sociologists would decry his chances to become a productive citizen or worry about him dropping out of school, but the opposite has happened. Counselor Mandy Abernethy praises Baker's choices.
"He is one of the most defined, positive, mature and ambitious students I know. I think because of his ambition and goals, he has just not given up," she said.
"For me being an outsider seeing Pete, I feel like beating the odds for him was not really a choice, but survival."
Baker earned a 4.0 grade-point average and participated in Key Club, Spanish Club, Scuba Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Family and Consumer Science Program, wrestling, football, cross country and track.
He tackled his ambition to become an electrical engineer one small step at a time, starting with attending school regularly and earning good grades. When his living situation stabilized, he joined clubs and sports.
"Being on your own, when you have no choice but to find your own shelter and food, it shows how you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anybody else," he said.
Editor's Note: Beating the Odds is a series being published in the Amarillo Globe-News from May 10-24 to tell the stories of all kinds of students who are graduating despite the challenges they've faced. It is part of Celebrate Education, a program designed to bring awareness to the need of educational attainment in the Texas Panhandle.
Copyright 2008 Amarillo Globe-News :: Amarillo.com