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High School Happiness

Story by Christina Holmes, photos by James Hill.

Christina Lee

Christina Lee rarely missed a class, turned in homework and attended all the assemblies during her three years at Wilson High School. She met friends through marching band but by the time she was a junior she still felt like she didn’t belong at the school.

“I loved Wilson and Portland Public Schools but there just weren’t the opportunities to do the things I wanted to do,” she said.

She wanted more academically challenging courses in classes with older students focused on a career.

Her mom started researching alternative high school options when Wilson Vice Principal Maude Lamont suggested Lee look at PCC to earn her high school diploma and fill the void she was feeling.

“I was excited because Mrs. Lamont brought it up,” said Lee. “I wanted to leave high school early but she found something better.”

Lee had just turned 17 when she began taking classes at PCC during the fall 2006 term. Feeling shy and a little anxious on the big campus, she found a piano on campus and, during breaks, she would tap away at the keyboard. A talented musician who plays clarinet, piano, saxophone, flute, trumpet and the harp, she found peace in the music.

Soon enough she made friends in her accounting, psychology, sociology and sign language classes.

“It’s been wonderful because I’ve met people from all walks of life,” said Lee, who carried a load of 17 credit hours during the summer term and has 23 credit hours this term. “I just started putting my foot in the door at PCC more and more.”

Last June she completed her diploma requirements for Portland Public Schools. She took part in Wilson’s graduation, a promise to her parents, John and Kathy Lee, that she would walk during the ceremonies.

Christina LeeMore than 500 students per year enroll at PCC to finish high school diploma requirements through their school district or to complete the Adult High School Diploma program.

PCC offers many opportunities for teens who want to be more academically challenged and get a head start on college, including hundreds of dual-credit courses taught at area high schools.

Add to that the hundreds of students who don’t fare well in high school and who turn to PCC as an alternative and the college could be considered the largest “high school” in Oregon.

For Lee, the transition to college during her senior year of high school was perfect. “PCC has been so wonderful and everyone there did so much for me,” said Lee.

This term Lee is taking anatomy and physiology as part of prerequisites for the nursing program. She’s also enrolled in classes for the Certified Nursing Assistant program and could find work in a nursing home or rehabilitation center while she attends nursing school.

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