The Pioneer sought out a graduating student from each of Pecos County's three high schools who overcame additional challenges on a path to a diploma. Desiree Blanco of Fort Stockton High School, Tricia Carter of Iraan High School, and River Pickering of Buena Vista High School in Imperial are profile.
Fort Stockton High School
One Fort Stockton High School senior didn't let her struggles get in the way of school.
“I have always liked school and always wanted to get A's,” said 17-year-old Desiree Blanco.
Her obligations got starting getting heavier about when she turned 11-years-old. Her parents divorced, and her mom took in her two cousins.
Being the oldest daughter of a single mother, Blanco was needed to help with her cousins and siblings – now ages 16, 14, 10, 9 and 4. She was responsible for feeding the kids and making sure they were in good care.
“They're like my little babies, I love them,” said Blanco.
Despite helping to watch her younger siblings, she also kept up her grades and participated in volleyball, basketball, softball, band and choir.
When she got home, she helped the kids with their homework and would get help with her homework from her mom. Sometimes, help came from within.
“I like to learn and figure it out on my own,” said Blanco.
She has been on the varsity softball team all four years. She served on student council, scored academically in the top 10 percent of her class, was a member of the National Honor Society, and took dual-credit classes to put her ahead as she heads for college in the fall.
She plans to go to Texas State University – something that she said has her both ready and scared.
“I'm excited, but I'm nervous because its closer to me leaving,” said Blanco.
With her departure, her next-oldest sister will now take on her responsibilities.
She has plans to major in accounting and work at a big firm before starting her own company.
“I'm excited to start a new journey,” said Blanco.
She is counting – it's now less than 100 days away.
Her younger siblings have started telling her that they also plan on going to college because of her. She will be the family's first college student.
“I'm pretty sure I'm their role model, which makes me want to do better,” said Blanco.
She is ready to start working towards her career. She'll be living in a dorm with her best friend, which will help her to not feel so alone without her siblings.
“I always have to think of everyone else but myself,” said Blanco. “I will just be taking care of myself.”
Iraan High School
Graduating high school is a big-time in the life of many seniors. Iraan student Tricia Carter, 18, credits her faith for helping her make it to this point.
“He always comes through, he's the reason I'm graduating,” said Carter.
Growing u, Carter was a coach's and teacher's kid, so she was involved in all the sports and events.
As she got older, she participated in multiple extracurricular activities including drum major in band, cross country manager, National Honor Society, student council president, Fellowship of Christian Athletes captain, power lifting, track and field, saxophone quartet, solo and ensemble band and one act play.
“It was really fun,” said Carter. “I was always playing or on the sidelines or in the athletic environment.”
In third grade, Carter fractured her knee and spent a year in and out of the hospital trying to see what was wrong.
The found that her knee didn't have cartilage and it limited her ability to play sports that could lead to a more serious injury.
“They told me they didn't want me to do sports, so that was a big challenge,” said Carter.
Although she was unable to keep playing some sports, it didn't stop her from being involved, even as a cross country manager helping the team record times.
Carter plans to go to Texas Tech in the fall. Since her parents are retiring, they are making the move to Lubbock with her.
She wants to major in creative media industries with an eye towards screen-writing and movies.
She also plans to write and illustrate children's books.
“I've always enjoyed telling stories,” said Carter.
While Carter has lived in Texas her whole life, she wants to branch out by studying abroad and then moving to Hollywood or New York to get ahead in her career.
“Everyone here lives the simple life. You may not be the richest, but you have everything you need,” said Carter. “I want to be heard, I want to make a difference.”
Buena Vista High School
Moving schools and states can be difficult for anyone, especially when it happens during the senior year of high school.
River Pickering, 18, moved to Imperial the summer before senior year started. While he was sad to leave his friends, he felt welcome at Buena Vista High School.
“I was pretty upset, but I knew it was necessary,” he said.
His second day of working out at the high school during summer, he had two other students come find out where he lived and introduced themselves.
Having friends before the school year started, joining the football team and having something to do made it a lot easier.
“This year has had a lot of ups and downs,” he said.
Pickering tore his ACL during the first quarter of the first football game of the year.
Recovering was tough, and took him out of sports. But he participated in one act play and was voted prom king.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I had a blast.”
Having a stable senior year was exciting for Pickering, who grew up with a lot of turbulence in his life.
He moved around constantly when he was younger because of money issues.
When he was 10-years-old, his parents got divorced. Because of disagreements, Pickering and his two brothers ended up in foster care for two years.
“It sucked, but you just have to be positive,” he said.
He has one younger and one older brother, who all live together, which has made life a little easier for him.
“My brothers are my best friends,” said Pickering. “We are like the three musketeers.”
Pickering spent the first three years of high school in Oklahoma, but his dad got a better job in Texas so the family picked up and moved.
“This is probably what I need,” said Pickering. “There's more opportunities for my future.”
After graduation, Pickering hopes to go into real estate.
“I just don't think college is for me,” he said.
He was able to maintain good grades throughout school, and is ready for life after high school.
“I'm excited because schools been fun but I think I'm ready to grow up,” said Pickering. “I'm ready to start making money and do my own thing.”