Bonnie Wood wasn't the least bit scared when she made the decision to leave her tiny, rural hometown halfway through high school to start her junior year in Ashland.
The shy, then 15-year-old didn't know anyone in town and she made the move alone, but she was ready, said Wood, who will graduate from Ashland High School alongside 213 of her classmates at 6:30 p.m. today at the Lithia Park Bandshell, 59 Winburn Way.
"I wanted to be challenged," said the 17-year-old.
What: Ashland High School graduation
When: 6:30 p.m. today, May 31
Where: Lithia Park's Butler Band Shell
Wood was a straight-A student at Etna Union High School in Etna, Calif., but skipped class frequently as assignments became more and more monotonous, she said.
"It's hard to stay motivated about anything when you're already on top with nowhere to go," said Wood. "I said to myself, 'I can't do this anymore.' I knew I had to go somewhere else. So, I moved up here alone."
Wood's parents rented her a room in Ashland, and still supported her financially, she said, but she was on her own with everything else.
"I never realized how much it actually took to do all your laundry and all your cooking on top of homework every night," said Wood.
Outside and inside the classroom in Ashland, Wood found the challenge she was looking for.
"I didn't even know what AP (advanced placement) classes were before I got here," she said. "So, I signed up for as many of them as I could."
Woods didn't consider going to high school anywhere else, she said.
"Where else was I going to find a school small enough to be manageable for someone like me coming from a small town, and also one of the best high schools in the county?" she said.
Wood's family didn't move to Ashland at first because it couldn't find an affordable house, but it arrived as Wood was starting her senior year, she said. "That was a good thing. ... I'm glad I've had the last year to spend with my mom."
Come autumn, Wood will attend Oregon State University to major in engineering, she said. She'll eventually use her degree to work in the field of sustainable energy development, she said.
"I am so impressed by Bonnie's commitment to her education, her resilience and her optimistic attitude," said AHS Principal Michelle Zundel. "She has been such a positive presence at AHS."
Zundel described this year's class as "a patchwork quilt of brilliance."
"They are musicians, artists, athletes, political activists, filmmakers, writers, volunteers in the community, speech makers, debaters, jugglers, world travelers," Zundel said.
Five AHS seniors graduating this year are the first people in their family to earn a high school diploma, and three are going on to attend Ivy League schools, Zundel said, "unheard of for us."
Sporting a large OSU flag as a cape Thursday during her last day of school in Ashland, Wood said she will be sad to leave her hometown of two years.
"I love Ashland, but I am really excited to go to college," she said.
Is she scared? Please.
"Being scared is not going to help you. I think the only limit is your mind," she said.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Talent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.