By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Clay, 19, graduated Jan. 23 — the end of fall semester — in a ceremony complete with tassel, followed by a celebration with his classmates.
Robed in a black cap and gown and a white graduation stole, he marched alone down an aisle formed by his classmates and teachers, and received his diploma from Principal Cindy Crumb.
“I knew they were going to do something, but I didn't expect the full ceremony,” Clay said.
Clay enrolled at Lincoln High in April 2013 after moving from Phoenix, Ariz., to Port Angeles to live with his brothers and attend high school.
“I came here to get my GED and get my life on track,” Clay said.
Clay said he briefly worked toward earning a General Educational Development, known as a GED, certificate but wanted his high school diploma instead so that he could join the Army.
“That was the determining factor that inevitably helped me join the military — something I've wanted to do since I was little,” he said.
“I joined the delayed entry program for the U.S. Army last June. All I needed to do at that point was graduate from high school,” Clay said.
Enlistment rules for the Army required a high school diploma.
Clay is scheduled to report to basic training in July.
“I'm extremely proud of him. He worked very hard, was very dedicated and put in extra time to graduate early,” said Staff Sgt. Tristan Ryan, Clay's Army recruiter.
Clay gave credit to his girlfriend, Mickayla Gibson, a fellow Lincoln High student, for supporting him during his push to graduate, and to his employer, First Street Furniture at 124 E. First St., for being flexible while he studied.
“Without this job, I wouldn't have been able to stay this long,” he said.
'Motivated young man'
Crumb described Clay as “a mature, motivated young man.”
“Chris proved he could do anything he put his mind to. He finished an online class in the spring and enrolled in summer school at Lincoln and the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center,” she said.
“Then he came back this fall and took not only a full load of classes at Lincoln but also an after-school skills center class to graduate,” Crumb said.
Because he earned an early graduation, Clay can go to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Seattle — where military jobs are assigned — to try to get an earlier report date for basic training, Ryan said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.