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Grad envisions life after high school

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Austin High School graduating senior Aron McAlister is looking forward.

He is looking forward to graduating tonight after a series of struggles over the past few years that included drug abuse. He is looking forward to his high school sweetheart giving birth to his daughter in a few weeks, and he is looking forward to starting college at Riverland Community College this fall, where he will pursue a degree in nursing.

For 18-year-old McAlister, the high school years have been full of challenges. Good grades, among other things, did not come easy.

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When he was in ninth grade, McAlister began using drugs, received a citation for underage drinking and was suspended from sports.

The following year, McAlister entered a drug treatment program.

"I just said ‘enough is enough. I’m not going anywhere like this.’" said McAlister. "I just knew the path I was going down. I mean, do you want to be like that for the rest of your life? It just didn’t seem that cool anymore."

While in treatment, McAlister worked hard to maintain his grades, which he says "weren’t great" but still were enough to keep him on the path to graduation — the end goal.

"I knew I had to get it done," said McAlister. "It’s been a challenge every day, but you gotta want it to get it."

When McAlister walks across the stage tonight to collect his diploma, he will remember all of the friends, teachers, counselors and family members who helped him reach that point.

Life’s constant changes and thoughts of eventually getting his own place to live and a job at Mayo Clinic are what will keep this Austin-raised young man motivated over the next 10 years.

And someday, when McAlister looks back at high school, he hopes he will remember "the fun stuff" like shop classes and "all the crazy stuff (he and his friends) used to do."

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"It’s been fun; it seems like just last year we were walking down freshman hall," said McAlister. "You have to enjoy it while it lasts and live life to the fullest."

Smiling, McAlister adds, "But they say college will be the best years of your life."

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