Six years after his freshman year of high school, Tacoda Anker, 20, will be graduating from Peninsula High School this June and has been accepted into multiple colleges, embodying what Dean of Students Andrew Hosford called “the most epic 180” he has ever witnessed.
“My feelings are incredible,” Anker said. “Honestly, I never thought I would make it this far. It’s kind of indescribable.”
Anker spent years as a drug user struggling with the demand to engage with his school environment when his entire life revolved around the goal of becoming disengaged. After a stint of rehabilitation failed, a confrontation with his father convinced him to get clean.
“The breaking point was when he said I was super ungrateful and that I didn’t deserve anything that he was giving me, which was true because I took advantage of anything I possibly could have to use drugs,” Anker said.
“I quit (using) and went out and found a job, ended up buying a car, re-enrolled in school and got straight A’s for the first time ever in my life because every year before that, I had all F’s no matter what; that was because of the drugs,” he said. “So, when I came back to school, that gave me hope. And all the people and teachers there telling me I was doing a good job just made me feel good.”
Anker has been accepted into Central Washington and Washington State University, as well as Olympic College and Tacoma Community College.
After choosing to go to WSU to be close to his sister, who was adopted when he was younger, he received a unique phone call from the university.
“They said they are really proud of me and have never seen a comeback story like this; they wanted to congratulate me personally,” he said. “It brought out a lot of emotions in me that I haven’t felt in a really long time.”
Alongside the excitement is apprehension, since this will be Anker’s first time away from the Key Peninsula.
“I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “But I’m an independent person, so I like to go out and see new things and travel, so it’ll be a good opportunity for me to go out.”
Anker came from a place of calling suspension “free vacation” to being a semester away from earning all the credits he needs to graduate.
“There’s no way you can get away from doing it—you can’t cheat your way around doing that, you have to be here and be present in order to graduate,” he said.
What Anker will miss most about PHS is the understanding people and their support for how far he has come. He said teachers who have helped shape him along the way include Kimberly Napier, Andrew Hosford and Pete Weymiller, to name a few.
“All the years that I’ve been here, I met a lot of cool people and the teachers are pretty cool and a lot of them didn’t like me, but what’s neat now is I’ve gotten relationships close to all of the teachers I used to be mean to and all that stuff—and they seemed changed, too, so that’s pretty inspiring,” Anker said. “Having all these people around me who are influential and are inspired by my story helped me want to be here longer.”
A father’s approval was another huge motivator for Anker to stay in school and earn all his credits.
¨(I’m going to be) able to show my dad that I’m going to college and really have good grades and graduate and have him see me walk across the stage and receive the diploma,” Anker said.
Along with the diploma will come a long-awaited handshake from Michael Blair, who refused to shake Anker’s hand after his freshman year, but promised to when he graduates.
Natalie Svinth is the Senior Managing Editor of the Peninsula High School Outlook. Reprinted with permission.
Natalie Svinth is the senior managing editor of the Peninsula High School Outlook. Read more of her work and that of her colleagues at www.phsoutlook.com. Read The Henderson Pawz school newspaper at www.hpawz.com
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