Kelly doesn't have trouble smiling anymore

  - Lynsi Burton/staff photo
— image credit: Lynsi Burton/staff photo

Kelly Diedrich buzzed about the office at Renaissance High School, busy finishing her senior requirements the week before graduation.

Caught up in her work, she smiled nonetheless.

“It’s definitely worth it,” she said.

The 20-year-old Houston native was not always so focused on her schoolwork - distractions have gotten in the way of finishing high school on time.

Diedrich’s childhood with her mother in Texas was happy until she got to high school. The school she went to had a riot, a shooting and a rape within about six months — and she became the victim of a traumatic assault, herself. Fearing for her safety, she moved in with her father in Washington and went to Central Kitsap High School.

Diedrich liked the change in schools and people, she felt safer, but when she turned 18 her grades were suffering. She was able to bring her grades up a little, but not to her father’s satisfaction, so he kicked her out, she said. She dropped out and rented an apartment on her own in Bremerton, working in fast food restaurants and retail. Her goal was survival, not school.

“Now it’s my education first,” she said.

She returned to school about two years ago, this time at Renaissance, but it took awhile for her outlook on life to turn around.

Bubba Hoff, Diedrich’s girlfriend, said before Diedrich started taking pride in her education she had trouble smiling.

“People take school for granted, but it was hard for her,” Hoff said.

Since then, Hoff has turned her life around, a transformation obvious to those who know her.

“She’s always smiling and happy and wants to make everybody’s day,” Hoff said. “Everything she’s doing she’s doing on her own. Just seeing her happy makes me happy.”

Diedrich wants to move to Las Vegas to work as a cook for awhile and live near her sisters. In a year or two, she hopes to go to college to pursue early childhood education or cosmetology.

She’ll worry about all that when the time comes, she said. More immediately, Diedrich was eager to see her mother during graduation, whom she hadn’t seen in two years.

“I promised my mom I was going to walk across a stage like I was supposed to,” she said.

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