BROOKFIELD - As 81 students made the trek across the stage last night at South Colchester Academy, there were a few emotions in common for all of them - the fear of falling, the sadness of missing friends and the pride of making it to the end.
But perhaps nobody was as proud as Taylor Ross, who has overcome a major obstacle to graduate high school.
Born deaf, Ross bounced around from school to school, before settling in at South Colchester Academy in Grade 11. Attending all regular classes, her hearing can sometimes pose a problem.
"I struggle with a lot of my courses, with my hearing," she said. "But I've worked really hard for this."
In a crowded classroom cluttered with background noise, it can be hard to focus on one voice. There were frustrating times, trying to read lips while drowning out other distractions, or trying to catch up on missed work.
Helping along the way was Cheryl Williams, who taught Ross both of her senior high years at the school.
"She's helped me with everything," Ross said. "If I didn't come to school, she'd have notes for me to copy and help me get caught up.
A shy student, Ross relied mostly on her own hard work and dedication to get through her courses. To get the extra help from a teacher meant a lot to her.
"She's the only teacher who did that for me. I'm not really talkative with other students, so it was a big help."
She was just doing her job, Williams said, but a job that Ross made much easier.
"When you have a student like Taylor, who works so diligently and wants to succeed so badly, it's easy as a teacher to get through to them," Williams said.
Another hard-working student to cross the stage Friday night was Matt Joudry.
"I really haven't thought it out yet," Joudry said when asked how he feels about graduating. "But I'll definitely miss all my friends."
One of those friends is Taylor Ross.
"We've known each other since Grade 10," he said. "It's been a long way to get here, but I'll miss her for sure."
Next year, Ross will attend the Victoria Court Career College, where she'll study cosmetology.
"I like art," she said. "I like doing hair and makeup, and learning different styles every day."
Williams is happy to have left an impact on a student like Ross, and couldn't be prouder of the young girl's accomplishments.
"I'm going to be very happy to see her graduate, especially with what she's overcome, and that she's going on to a post-secondary field she is passionate about."
With the rest of her life in front of her, Ross will remember the struggles she overcame in high school to motivate her.
"It was tough, but hey, I got through it."
SCA major award winners
Queen Elizabeth II Medal: Albero Walker Serracin-Pitti
Governor General’s Academic Medal: Madison Faith Clarke