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Merrimack Valley graduate, mother determined to overcome life’s challenges, succeed

  • Bryan Burr shoots photos of his son Dylan from behind the fence during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bryan Burr shoots photos of his son Dylan from behind the fence during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Brianna Heath and Mitchell Hemlin stand in line to pick up their diplomas on stage during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Brianna Heath and Mitchell Hemlin stand in line to pick up their diplomas on stage during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Jason Ashburn, center, gives a thumbs up while listening to the speeches at the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Jason Ashburn, center, gives a thumbs up while listening to the speeches at the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    The Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Daiquiri Przybyla places her graduation cap on her six-month-old daughter Ally after the Merrimack Valley High School graduation ceremony on Saturday June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. Despite having her daughter during her senior year, Przybyla graduated on time and with college credits. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Daiquiri Przybyla places her graduation cap on her six-month-old daughter Ally after the Merrimack Valley High School graduation ceremony on Saturday June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. Despite having her daughter during her senior year, Przybyla graduated on time and with college credits.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Students toss their caps and spray silly string after the final announcement during the Merrimack Valley High School class of 2013 on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Students toss their caps and spray silly string after the final announcement during the Merrimack Valley High School class of 2013 on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bryan Burr shoots photos of his son Dylan from behind the fence during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Brianna Heath and Mitchell Hemlin stand in line to pick up their diplomas on stage during the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Jason Ashburn, center, gives a thumbs up while listening to the speeches at the Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • The Merrimack Valley High School commencement ceremony on June 15, 2013 in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Daiquiri Przybyla places her graduation cap on her six-month-old daughter Ally after the Merrimack Valley High School graduation ceremony on Saturday June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. Despite having her daughter during her senior year, Przybyla graduated on time and with college credits. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Students toss their caps and spray silly string after the final announcement during the Merrimack Valley High School class of 2013 on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at the school in Penacook. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Motivation comes in many varieties. For Daiquiri Przybyla, it takes the form of a babbling, squealing, fuzzy-headed little girl who can walk across the backyard if she holds your fingers and who just figured out how to roll over.

Przybyla, who lives in Penacook, was one of 177 seniors to graduate from Merrimack Valley High School yesterday. After getting pregnant late last winter, she knows her name could have easily dropped off the program handed out at the commencement ceremony. But Przybyla goes by another name now, too: Mama. And that reality has pushed her not just to complete high school but to visualize and pursue a viable career.

“I used to be pretty wild. And then my junior year I decided, ‘It’s time to grow up,’ ” said Przybyla, who moved to New Hampshire from Nebraska and has attended all four years at Merrimack Valley. “And then I found out I was pregnant – boom; instant adult.”

Przybyla was nearing completion of her required credits when she discovered she was pregnant with Alexandria, who’s now almost 7 months old. She arranged with the school to finish her academic work from home and to remain in the school’s culinary program, where she had developed a passion for cooking.

In addition, Przybyla began taking college courses through Running Start and enrolled in the culinary arts program at Lakes Region Community College. She received two scholarships, and her high school chef instructor, who also teaches at her college, has given her three free culinary courses. If all goes as planned, she’ll receive her associate degree next May.

“I want to open my own restaurant by the time Ally is 12,” said Przybyla, sitting in the backyard of the home where she’s lived for the past few weeks. She moved out of her parents’ home last winter and lived with her grandparents until a family friend offered to take her in. Compared to the personal difficulties she’s overcome in the past few years, her career goals seem easily within reach.

“The pregnancy was rough,” said Przybyla, who worked 60 hours a week at a summer camp last summer while pregnant. She said she

felt lonely and ostracized by her classmates. “People are mean. They say rude things,” Przybyla said. “I lost almost all my friends.”

The exception was her “bestie” Brianna Heath, who was with her in the delivery room and has been by her side ever since. Last week, the two decorated Heath’s car for graduation and hung out in the backyard, passing Ally back and forth between their laps.

Przybyla also had the support of her teachers and school staff, who marveled at her tenacity during those tough times. “Kids that end up in her situation often don’t make it to graduation, let alone meeting requirements early and starting college courses,” said Mark Ciarametaro, Przybyla’s guidance counselor. “She’s motivated and she’s hardworking. And she does have some wonderful grandparents that have been there to help her and support her.”

Yesterday’s ceremony seemed custom-made for kids like Przybyla, acknowledging the struggles and hardships that define the human experience even as it celebrated the seniors’ achievements.

“Some of our plans have fallen through . . . our dreams have shattered for one reason or another,” said senior class President Mariah Lansdown. She also presented the class gift, a raised flower bed.

In his speech, Principal Mike Jette owned up to a spelling error on dozens of awards certificates that no one caught until after they’d been printed last week. Salutatorian Kristi Perreault recalled both the highlights and lowlights of the era in which she and her classmates came of age. And valedictorian Sara Kowalski used a metaphor on the Milton Bradley game Life to remind friends and family that life is “blur of colors” that doesn’t always make sense.

It’s tempting, in this tech-dependent world, to think there has to be an answer for everything within easy reach, said Jette, who, just for fun, ran the graduating seniors’ names through spell-check last week to see what his computer would change them to. Nichole became “income”; Spencer became “spender”; and Maureen became “manure.”

Humans may be prone to failure, Jette said, but they also give life its meaning. “We want to make sure that we always put that human factor in,” he said.

Legacy Comments1

I'm fed-up with these types of graduation stories that the Concord Monitor deems necessary to print every year. Graduation is an all-inclusive ceremony for every student who has satisfied the school requirements to receive a diploma, and a story in the local paper should be a reflection of that. Such an in-depth story about one person totally trivializes the day for the other students. There were approximately 180 students graduating from MVHS on Saturday, and there were probably just as many stories of struggles and hardships along the road to graduation. I truly believe a newspaper article about a school's graduation should focus on the number of graduates; the percentage of students who will be attending higher education; those who are joining the military; the speeches made; naming the students who were valedictorian, salutatorian, and the top-ten students in the graduating class; and mentioning any other outstanding achievements by students. It should be an article that any student from the graduating class would feel proud to keep in their scrapbook of high school memories. If you want to write any other kind of article which focuses solely on one student, save it for an additional story at another time.

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