Perseverance proves key for Pequot Lakes Student of Character
Delaney Westrich worked tirelessly to earn the necessary credits to graduate on time.
PEQUOT LAKES — Words like “perseverance” and “determination” may not be the first words that come to mind for many when thinking of high school students and academics, but recent Pequot Lakes High School graduate Delaney Westrich embodies those words well.
After switching schools, being temporarily homeschooled and effectively giving up on her academic career, Westrich turned all of that around and worked hard enough to graduate on time May 27 with the rest of her class.
That determination led to her being named one of Sourcwell's Students of Character for Pequot Lakes.
“My dad (Pequot Lakes High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Byron Westrich) told me I was going to be called down to the office for something, and that it was a good thing,” she said. “I was just really surprised … I didn’t really know what it was, and then I wondered if I really deserved it. And then at the awards banquet, I literally felt like a celebrity.”
School Interventionist Monica Sergent nominated Westrich, recognizing her tenacity and persistence to get everything done on time to graduate.
“She has a lot of character traits that combine to make her a great representative from our school as a Student of Character,” Sergent said. “The award is supposed to recognize students that have overcome difficulties and persevered, and she has done exactly that."
Westrich struggled in school for much of her time, to the point where her parents attempted homeschooling her during her early high school years.
“I grew up in a family where my siblings were all super popular in school and big athletes, and everyone loved them,” she said. “To grow up in that family and be different was really hard for me. I didn’t want to go to school. I thought it was a scary place, and I didn’t feel happy or safe there.”
Upon enrolling at Pequot Lakes in 2020, Westrich was several credits behind her fellow juniors. Despite this - and with Sergent’s help - she buckled down and put a focus on her schoolwork like she never had before.
“Mrs. Sergent was the one who got me to do all my stuff, and then I did summer school to get all my credits back … I was just very determined to graduate. I think there are a lot of people who didn’t believe I ever would, and I just had to prove everyone wrong,” she said.
Proving her doubters wrong is exactly what she did, and Westrich recalled feeling a tremendous sense of relief on Friday, May 27, when she donned the cap and gown and received her diploma along with her classmates.
“She's a very strong, positive role model for other students,” Sergent said. “She sees they're struggling a little bit, whether it's academically or socially, and she is very encouraging to them. She tells them her story to help motivate them to keep going. She is also very kind and reliable.”
Through all of her struggles in catching up, Westrich came to realize that she cannot learn everything in one particular way, and neither can anyone else.
“School is completely different for everyone,” she said. “It depends on the struggles you are going through and the type of person you are. School was definitely a lot better for me in my senior year than it ever was before.”
With high school in the rearview mirror, Westrich plans to attend Central Lakes College and become a registered nurse in a psychology unit.
“I grew up with all my sisters and my mom being a nurse, and I want to work in the psychology unit and be able to help kids - teenagers, mainly,” she said.
On her path to becoming a nurse, she hopes to remember that her goals will take effort and determination to achieve. She also hopes she can remember the people who have helped her along the way.
“You always have to try your hardest, even when you don't feel like you want to,” she said.
Students of Character is a program that recognizes students in seven area school districts with scholarships "for their quiet leadership, perseverance and dedication to their community, school and fellow students." The awards dinner was April 20 at Madden's Resort on Gull Lake. Also representing the Pequot Lakes School District was Riley Smith.