Faces: Asking for help kept a hard year from getting worse for Ford
When her grandmother, Lisa Ford, was receiving treatment for brain cancer, Pine River-Backus High School senior Tia Ford had a rough school year. Asking for help kept her from falling behind and earned her a recognition she didn't even know existed.
"I missed some school for my grandma, who has brain cancer," Ford said. "That was really tough on me."
Ford took responsibility rather than just ignore her schoolwork, for which she recently received the National Joint Powers Alliance's Rising Star award.
"I had to ask for some help," she said. "That's how (teacher) Kyle Bergem knew what I was going through. I guess with everything going on I had to talk to my teachers and tell them what was going on. They were helpful. Other than that I had to keep going."
Teachers worked with Ford to extend deadlines and make sure someone could bring her homework assignments to her while she was out of class. Instrumental in keeping her caught up were family and friends, including her girlfriend, Judith, who spent time with Ford at the hospital.
"She was really helpful and supportive," Ford said. "She ended up missing some classes. When I missed class she helped me keep notes and helped me make sure I got assignments done. She was always there for me even when it was difficult. She sat at the hospital with me and held my hand through everything."
Ford did not expect her teachers to pay much special attention to her unfortunate burden, and she certainly didn't expect them to help her get recognition for keeping her grades up through hard times, but she was in for a surprise.
Bergem and fellow teacher Heidi Envall had nominated Ford to be one of the school's 2017 Rising Stars. In February, Ford learned she had been selected for the award alongside PR-B senior Sierra Tallman.
"I really didn't know what it was," Ford said. "After I found out what it was I was pretty happy and excited."
On April 12, Ford was among 46 Region Five students recognized at a banquet for Rising Stars, where she was awarded a $375 scholarship and a plaque honoring her as not only a student who has overcome hardship, but also an "unsung hero," which is the other guideline for Rising Star nominees.
Though Ford is manager of the Pine River-Backus softball team and has served as stage manager for the community education theater, she said she has never gotten accolades for her academic performance or participation in extracurricular activities. As manager in both these instances, Ford plays an important role, but usually one that receives less attention.
"For stage manager I've been behind the scenes of plays helping out," she said. "As softball manager, I like being able to cheer on the team and support them as much as I can."
Ford will put her scholarship money toward a post-secondary degree at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. She plans to become an early childhood educator.
"I like children," she said. "I want to be able to shape the younger kids' minds so they have the necessities for growing up in life."
In her nomination, Bergem and Envall wrote, "Conscientious, hardworking, and kind-hearted are words that describe Tia. She is a good role model in class, always staying focused on her work and holding high expectations for herself. Tia's leadership is evident in her determination to complete a task to the best of her ability. To accomplish this, Tia is meticulous with her work, learns from mistakes, and is always willing to give it another try!
"Tia uses her skills to lead other students in class. Tia maintains a positive attitude, has the determination to lead by example, and demonstrates high level of maturity. She encourages her classmates to try their best as well, which really helps create a positive learning environment. Tia cares about other people and is always willing to listen, and she has the confidence to respectfully express her own thoughts and opinions."