It’s no secret high school is the gateway to adulthood. These four years present the opportunity to make choices that ultimately affect students’ lives as adults. It’s a lot of pressure for a teenager. The good news is that high school, by design, is intended to allow room for mistakes and second chances, bad decisions and personal growth, and failure followed by success. When a student learns to confront and remedy bad habits, apathy, and other obstacles that are typical of high school, the results can be extraordinarily rewarding. Baylee Diaz is a student who exemplifies how a shift in mindset and dedication can transform a possibly bleak future into one of endless possibilities.
Baylee began her high school journey in sunny California. Early in 9th grade, however, she received the news she would be moving to Georgia. A cross-country move isn’t easy for adults, so it can be particularly daunting for a high school freshman. For Baylee, her grades suddenly became a lesser priority in her life as she prepared for a long trip, a new home, new friends, and a new school. In fact, she remembers making a conscious decision to avoid completing her school work. When she arrived at West Hall High School, she was greeted by COVID and all the restrictions that came along with it. Baylee viewed virtual learning as unmotivating and difficult, and she soon found herself with only 4.5 credits after two years of high school.
As a junior Baylee got a fresh start at Winder-Barrow High School. The in-person environment and the routine of getting back into a high school building were important steps in the right direction. She more than doubled her credits in a single year! Nearing the end of her junior year, a support team within the school began having open and honest conversations with Baylee and her mom about how her prior decisions had impacted her academic performance. The team discussed new routes Baylee would need to take to graduate on time. She was challenged with the overwhelming tasks of buckling down and completing unit recovery courses, classes at Foothills, and passing all 8 courses her senior year… or choosing to become a 5th year senior.
According to Baylee, choosing to change her mindset and being unwaveringly insistent that she was going to graduate on-time with her peers in May 2023 was an easy decision. But completing a total of 13 ½ credits in a little over a year is one of the most aggressive plans to get a student back on track. “We knew it would be a tall challenge,” counselor Cory Peppers remembers, “but Baylee amazed us all by accepting this challenge head on. I told her in my 13 years of counseling, I’ve never seen a student be able to accomplish so much in one school year. I can remember Baylee looking down and discouraged, but then I said, ‘until you.’ Baylee’s story is one of turning a corner to see how consistency, dedication and hard work can pay off. Baylee will long be my example case of how students can be resilient to circumstances and persevere through challenges.”
Though Baylee certainly had support from her comprehensive team of counselors, academic interventionist, graduation specialist, teachers, and family, it is her transformation into a responsible and conscientious young adult that is so inspiring. She indeed transformed her old apathetic outlook toward school into an optimistic and productive view on life. In fact, Baylee plans on attending Gwinnett Tech in the Fall and studying to become an Ultrasound Technician.
We are proud of our students who are on the “Grad Track.” A Grad Track student has either failed one or more academic classes and/or is behind in credits needed for graduation with their cohort class. Graduation Specialists at all three Barrow County School System (BCSS) high schools support students who meet these qualifications.