Eleven graduate from QUEST Academy

Erin Lehr and Kendra Zehner took different paths to end up on the same graduation stage.

Eleven seniors, including Lehr and Zehner, graduated from QUEST Preparatory Academy during a Saturday ceremony at Clifton Christian Church.

Lehr and Zehner had family and friends attend Saturday’s ceremony, and both want to go into nursing. That is where the similarities between the classmates end.

Lehr completed high school in three years, combining her sophomore and junior years into one year to graduate at 16. She was valedictorian.

Zehner, 19, used to have a GPA near 4.0, like Lehr. When Zehner gave birth to her daughter in February, her priorities shifted from graduating top in her class to simply graduating.

The classmates looked at each other before Saturday’s ceremony and admitted they are different.

However, each teen said graduating from high school is a dream come true.

“I was going to have a hard time looking at my daughter and saying, ‘I didn’t graduate,’ ” Zehner said.

QUEST stands for Quality, Unity, Education, Sanctified and Trust. It is a nontraditional school where students can take classes on their own time with an emphasis on Christian faith and service.

Zehner’s pregnancy was marred by illness and a need to take classes from home, so she couldn’t complete her senior year at Central High School, where she used to attend. She enrolled at QUEST Preparatory Academy with the promise the school would help her fulfill the dream of being a mother with a high school diploma.

Lehr enrolled in QUEST Academy three years ago because she struggled in a traditional school setting while in middle school. She has flourished since.

“I used to be a big rebel,” she said. “I ‘180’d’ my life.”

Lehr has spent the past seven weeks taking certified nursing assistant classes in addition to high school courses. She will have her CNA license by the end of May. Lehr will be at Mesa State College in the fall with plans to eventually become a nurse family practitioner.

“I didn’t plan on graduating at 16,” she said.

Zehner, on the other hand, has always been a planner. When she mapped out her life six years ago, she planned to graduate from high school, go to college, then have a career to earn enough money to start a family. Plans have changed.

With the help of friends, family and a new boyfriend, who encourages and pushes her to follow her dreams, Zehner said she has the support necessary to still achieve her goals — just in a different order.

“I’m striving to be the best I can be to make sure (my daughter) doesn’t have to worry about anything,” Zehner said.

She wants to enroll at Mesa State in the fall and take additional courses online. Zehner wants to get nursing and business degrees with the plan of one day operating her own business.

“Hopefully,” she said.

While QUEST Academy was holding its graduation ceremony Saturday, seven seniors with Cornerstone Christian Church graduated at Clifton Christian Church. The ceremonies were held simultaneously in different parts of the church. Cornerstone and QUEST Academy work closely together academically.

Nathan Brantley was named valedictorian of the Cornerstone senior class. Jessica Morgan was salutatorian.


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