Behind the success of many students are parents who impart daily the importance of study, self-discipline and hard work.
Yet, some succeed despite not having the benefit of such an influence.
The winners of the 2012 ACE award, given to Butte's "turn-around" students of the year, are on track to graduate despite a deep hole in their lives caused by the absence of their parents. They are Kalli Jo Cady and Becky Jo Huber.
John McBride of the Butte Exchange Club, which picks the winner of the award, said the candidates this year "overcame a lifetime of challenges and focused their lives in a positive direction."
The cards were stacked against Kalli Jo Cady, the first winner of the ACE award, since birth. She never knew her father, and despite recently learning his identity, he has made it clear that he does not want to be in her life. Her mother raised Kalli Jo until the age of 8, but through much of that time mom was strung out on drugs. She got into trafficking narcotics, driving cars back and forth from Mexico, and was eventually caught, convicted and imprisoned.
Kalli Jo's mom will get out this June, a month after her daughter is expected to graduate.
Yet Kalli Jo didn't always expect to graduate. She disliked academia from a young age and had no interest in finishing high school, much less going to college.
"I hated it," she said. "I didn't want anything to do with school."
But her grandparents, whom she considers mom and dad, forced her to sit down for an hour after work each day. It wasn't her favorite thing, but she obeyed her elders.
Even the rock of her grandmother would soon crumble. Two years ago, grandma became sick with liver cancer and could no longer keep a watchful eye over Kalli Jo. The high school sophomore responded by skipping classes, failing English and then dropping out of summer school. She was well on her way to dropping out for good when her grandmother took a turn for the worse and died suddenly.
It was a loss unlike any other for Kalli Jo.
But she didn't respond by skipping more classes and acting more recklessly. Instead, fueled by a desire to make her mother and grandmother proud, she concentrated on her studies and volunteered in the community.
Now a senior, Kalli Jo is on track to graduate. She was accepted to the University of Montana Western and hopes to major in psychology, which she will use to parlay into a career in social work.
Coming from a limited means, the $3,000 scholarship means everything to her. Yet, the recognition may mean even more.
"I'm very grateful," said Kalli Jo. "I've never won anything before in my life. It means a lot to be for someone to recognize people that have been through a lot."
HIT AFTER HIT
Becky Jo Huber was also awarded the ACE scholarship. She had a healthy, supportive family until the seventh grade when tragedy struck. A policeman came to the door to notify her that her mother had been in a serious motorcycle accident and was in the hospital.
At the side of the hospital bed, Becky Jo called the scene "goriest thing you've ever seen." Her mother, suffering from severe trauma and burns, would not make it through the night. As Becky Jo left the hospital, she was hoping for the best yet knew the worst would come. And the worst kept coming.
"It was really rough," said Becky Jo. "I took a month off school. The first day back was just terrible."
And it didn't get any easier. Her father, who had always been susceptible to depression, began to fall deeper into the disease. He often threatened to commit suicide.
Yet, Becky Jo tried to live the life of a normal teenager. She was finally getting her feet back under her after her mother's death when her father followed through on his threats.
It was a hit that would have floored many, yet Becky remained standing.
"I just knew we could get through this again," she said. "I knew I could get through the depression." She credits friends and siblings for supporting her whenever she wavered.
Now also a Butte High senior, Becky Jo is on track to graduate as well. She plans to attend Montana Tech and pursue an associate's degree in radiology.
Both Cady and Huber will receive $3,000 in scholarships. The money comes from the Butte Exchange Club, the Susan Welsch Memorial Scholarship sponsored by the Resodyn Corp. and the Rosemary Rawls Memorial Scholarships sponsored by Roger Rawls.
In addition, Patrick John Dobb Jr. an ACE award nominee, received an award of special merit and a $500 savings bond. Dobb was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 7 and following brain surgery had to relearn to walk.
In his junior year he was inducted into the National Honor Society. He plans to attend Montana State University and major in paleontology.
- Reporter Tim Trainor may be reached via email at email@example.com