TATAMAGOUCHE - Jesse MacKenzie does not take his graduation for granted.
The Grade 12 North Colchester High School student is among 28 teenagers who received their high school diploma on Friday night.
And for Jesse, 17, it was no easy task.
"I had a reading and writing disability ... I understood what was being said but I needed help communicating it back properly ...
so you can imagine how hard school and homework were," said Jesse, who with the help of teacher Jenny Lynds has made huge strides in overcoming his academic challenges.
"I had to learn to raise my hand and ask for help," which took time getting used to. "You can overcome things but it takes time and effort and you have to not care what people think because it makes you scared to do anything and when you care what people think that hurts you more."
That hard work and determination was worth it. Not only was he exempt from exams due to excellent attendance, he was also recognized as student of the month in the spring.
"I was shocked. I thought, ‘there's no way it could be me,'" he said.
"I'm proud of myself. I'm happy to begin life as an adult. I'm sad to leave this school but it makes me happy to graduate. It (also) feels really weird to leave family after 13 years. This is a small community so we all know each other and are like family," he said.
"I'm going to miss softball and soccer here too," added Jesse, who was also named athlete of the year at the school.
As for the future, Jesse will attend the Nova Scotia Community College, Stellarton campus, in the fall to study welding.
"I want to do a trade and something hands-on," he said. "I'm nervous because it's a bigger school and there will be new people."
As Jesse moves on to post-secondary education, Lynds is thrilled to see her student advance after working so hard in high school.
"That's why we (teach). It's the reason the job is worthwhile ... to see students succeed. (Jesse) wasn't afraid to ask for help and his perseverance and involvement in the school" is something to be proud of Lynds said.
NCHS major award winners
Queen Elizabeth Medal: Emma Bush
Governor-General Medal: Justin Thibault
Lieutenant-Governor medals: John Hunt and Hannah Martin
Multiple bursaries were presented to: Emma Bush, Brian Donovan, Josh Dunn, Devin Hayman, Lienna Hoeg, Ethan Hunt, Jesse MacKenzie, Ceanna Mardian, Nathan Martin, Jillian McMillan, Patrick Rafters, Justin Thibault, Derek Tucker, Jennie Underwood, Dylan Veysey, Megan Waugh and Nicholas Weatherby