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

Straight-A Rebel lives on his own

By 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.

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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