Honoring graduates: Overcoming difficulties leads to future plans for Talawanda senior

Sierra Pruitt will graduate from Talawanda High School this week with memories of teachers and staff members who were there to help her past myriad difficulties to get to this milestone. CONTRIBUTED
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Sierra Pruitt will graduate from Talawanda High School this week with memories of teachers and staff members who were there to help her past myriad difficulties to get to this milestone. CONTRIBUTED

High school has been a series of difficulties for Sierra Pruitt but she will graduate from Talawanda this week with a positive attitude, a plan for the future and memories of caring people who helped her through those roadblocks.

She actually finished her classes last October but will walk with her class in this week’s commencement ceremony. She is looking forward to this fall when she plans to begin classes at the Miami University Regional Campus in Hamilton with a future as a veterinarian tech because of her love of animals.

“I feel a lot of people going out of high school say they will not miss it. I miss it because it gave me something to look forward to. It gave me a goal. I was surrounded by so many supportive adults,” Pruitt said. “I knew somebody would be at my side. The teachers were helpful and answered questions. They showed me different ways to improve my work. I knew somebody was at my side and I did not feel left out.”

She said she did the majority of her school work in an online program, CVIP, which she began halfway through her sophomore year. It combined classwork with a job and it required her to turn in weekly time sheets and the teacher often did site visits to check up on her.

She said online learning helped because of an ADHD condition making that a better option for her. She turned her education around with that program and worked through the summer to catch up.

“My freshman and sophomore years, I was not that good of a student,” she said, explaining in addition to health issues, she had been bullied and often skipped classes. “I realized this was my education and I was not doing it right. I asked if I could do CVIP. I feel like it gave me a lot of focus.”

She had been in foster care for a time in Hamilton and came to Talawanda in the seventh grade with the result she had been in several different schools over the years but she added, “I have been in Oxford longer than any other place.”

Her situation did not allow for sports or school activities.

“I was willing to do cheer but I was not able to freshman or half my sophomore year because my right knee was inflamed. I tried out my junior year but I hurt my wrist and was laid off work,” she said, adding a kidney infection as well as several other infections prevented her from doing much but then laughs, “My mom calls me a walking infection.”

She spent time in the hospital, underwent 13 tests, had a 105-degree fever and strep throat.

Through all of that, she managed to keep up with her online classes and had the foresight to take pictures of the classes, which was fortunate when her online teacher retired without recording everything and she used the photos to prove she had completed the courses.

“One thing you should always do is not retake classes,” she joked.

She is the daughter of Christina and Craig Wilhite.

Pruitt’s plan to be a vet tech has been there for a long time.

“It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. I love animals to death. If I could have 10 mansions, I would go around the globe to find strays and take care of them,” she said, explaining they have four pugs in their household. A 5-year-old pug named Diesel is hers, and her mother has two dogs and her grandmother, one. “The vet said (Diesel) has arthritis in his hip. I paid the bill out of my own pocket. If I was desperate, I would sell my car. I would do anything for animals.”

She said she has saved money to go to college and her step-father helped her plan her money for that. She said she was accepted into 13 college, including Ohio State, but the savings on room and board as well as costs of living away from home made Miami University-Hamilton a good choice, she said.

First, however, is high school graduation this Thursday, scheduled for outdoors on the turf stadium field, with a rain date of Friday. For Pruitt, the experience has been a hard one, but something she will treasure.

“It has been a long four years. It did take a toll on me, but there was always somebody to talk to. I always knew I had someone to talk to. Talawanda is the only school I know with people who care about you,” she said. “I know it’s tolls and rides and roller coasters. I showed people who thought I couldn’t do it, I can.”