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One day during her freshman year, Mikayla Weis decided to skip school and go to Salem. She ended up stranded, without a ride for four days.

“After that, skipping just sort of became an addiction,” she said.

The habit, fueled by personal issues, saw her fall behind, leave West Albany High School, miss half of her sophomore year and enroll in Albany Options School. But in February of 2018, she dropped out.

“That summer I thought, ‘You know what? I should get my GED like the rest of my family,’” she said. But when she walked through the door of Albany Options in September and was directed to the GED room, she reconsidered.

“I didn’t want to go in there and spend two hours at a computer taking tests,” she said. “I wanted to experience high school.”

Weis had 12 credits to her name and not a lot of time. Counselor Anna Harryman told her it was nearly impossible and that she would have to opt for her GED in the end. But Weis didn’t listen.

“It was an accomplishment I wanted to have,” she said of being the first person in her family to graduate high school.

This year, Weis has gone to prom for the first time and has taken her last school field trip. She’s recovered her lost credits while maintaining her own living space and working full time. On June 10, she’ll graduate.

“It’s something that she wanted to do and she worked hard,” Harryman said.

The smaller class sizes at Albany Options School helped, Weis said. The community she found there helped as well.

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“It’s so satisfying that people care about me here and want to know how I’m doing,” she said, fighting back tears that her anxiety often brings on.

Weis said she plans to return to Salem after graduation, enrolling in Chemeketa Community College to work toward degrees in photography or psychology, maybe transferring to a university in two years.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate and get a diploma,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of myself.”

The Albany Options School graduation will be held at the Russell Tripp Performance Center in Albany at 7 p.m. Monday, June 10.

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