Different paths for 2 Bijou grads, but both now looking forward to college
Sahaja Hladky wanted to get there fast. Josh Willuhn was in no big rush. Now both of them are looking forward to college and future careers.
The two students' paths coincided this year as part of the 2006 graduating class at the Bijou School, District 11's alternative high school on the Westside.
As reported previously in the Westside Pioneer (Sept. 8, 2005), Sahaja started the year as a 15-year-old junior. Taking advantage of the fast-track options available at Bijou, she graduated May 18 as a 16-year-old senior, having finished high school in three years (the last two at Bijou).
Why so fast? Her goal is to become a large-animal veterinarian, and the sooner she can finish her education - she starts next fall at Colorado State University - the sooner she can get on with a professional career. “I know I have 10 years of college ahead of me,” she explained.
But her story is not just about taking heavy academic loads; it's also about being enterprising. Because it doesn't do much good to be ready for college if you can't afford it. And Sahaja does not come from an affluent family. Somehow during the school year, she found time to work part-time as a waitress; in addition, with the help of Bijou counselor Kathryn Presnal, she familiarized herself with grant and scholarship opportunities. “I applied all fall for every scholarship they had in the office,” Sahaja recalled, then added proudly, “I got quite a few.”
Now she can look forward to a college career in which it appears most of her costs will be paid.
Presnal spoke highly of Sahaja's enterprise. “We have kids who come here saying they will do lots of things and wind up doing nothing,” Presnal said. “This is one determined kid.”
Unlike Sahaja, Josh stretched out his high school career. It took him five years to graduate, not because he did bad work but because he didn't like the idea of taking lots of classes. He even got suspended as recently as last fall for bad attendance. “I guess you could say I'm a slacker,” he said, half-jokingly. “But when I'm here, I give 120 percent.”
Now that he has graduated, Josh is looking forward to his future as avidly as Sahaja. Focusing on computer science, he plans to enroll for a full load of classes next fall at Pikes Peak Community College, then move on to UCCS after two years.
During his time at Bijou, Josh helped run the school newspaper with teacher Nancy Gibbs, mainly handling the photo editing and design.
He never doubted he would graduate, but admitted having problems with motivation at times. His family is poor, and he remembers how much it hurt “to see my mom cry because she couldn't pay the electricity.”
He is especially proud of finally getting the diploma because “both my parents had dropped out.” They in turn “pounded it in my head to do better than they had,” Josh said.
Westside Pioneer article