Rachel Beck is quiet, but self-assured. Her journey after high school is a unique one these days.
The senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy is going on to college, but her goal is not to prepare herself for a career. Her goal is to pursue learning.
"I want to get an education for the whole person and not just a degree," Rachel said. "I will figure out what I want to do afterwards."
That is one reason she chose to attend Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles. The private, Catholic college offers a four-year liberal arts degree.
She was also offered a "great financial aid package" that allowed her to attend.
"I needed something that would work for me and my family," Rachel said.
Rachel belongs to a strong Catholic family. She is the fourth of nine children. She had been home-schooled until the 10th grade. She described herself as becoming unmotivated with the same teacher.
"I needed new experiences," Rachel said. "I had given up."
Their family moved to Flagstaff from California and Rachel found what she needed at FALA.
"The connection I have with teachers at FALA and my respect for the teachers has enhanced my education so much," Rachel said. "I wouldn't have been so successful in my studies."
Becky Daggett, executive director at FALA, reciprocates the respect. She wrote, "(Rachel) is one of the most hardworking, sincere, grateful students I've ever met."
Rachel was a member of FALA's National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society.
Rachel originally came to FALA for art, but she found out academics were her passion.
"I am passionate about learning and serving," Rachel said. "Maybe I will be a teacher."
She enjoys English and math.
"When math teachers give you a problem and you struggle and struggle and struggle. Finally, success," Rachel said.
For a time she considered going to culinary school. She often bakes with her siblings, and she baked and decorated a carrot cake for Mother's Day.
"Food is universal and easily shared," Rachel said.
She doesn't have much free time these days as she is working three jobs to help pay for college.
She is working on the Forest Highlands recreational staff as a nanny.
She works behind the counter as a dishwasher at Simply Delicious.
And this will be the second summer she has worked with the Flagstaff Teen Employment Corps, a subset of NACRC (Northern Arizona College Resource Center). This summer she will be co-supervisor of the division.
"All of the jobs are relatively small," Rachel said. "It takes the family burden off paying for tuition."
Rachel said her mom is happy for her and her college plans.
"She is excited I am exploring a liberal arts degree and that I am grounded in my faith," Rachel said. "This will be a really great experience."
Cecile LeBlanc can be reached at 556-2261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
High school graduations
Friday, May 31,
--9 a.m. Coconino High School
--3 p.m. Flagstaff High School
Saturday, June 1,
NAU Ardrey Auditorium
2 p.m. Northland Preparatory Academy
Friday, June 7,
CCC - Lonetree Campus
7 p.m. Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy