Graduating from Oilfields High School is a tremendous feat for Taya Fisher.
After falling behind due to personal issues, the 18-year-old from the Millarville area pulled double duty, and more, during her Grade 12 year, completing two years' worth of courses in one year while also volunteering hundreds of hours for the school in Black Diamond.
Dealing with the death of her father when she was in elementary school, mental health issues and online schooling during the pandemic finally became too much for Fisher to bear on her own.
“I struggled all through my school years from Grade 6 and up,” Fisher said.
Diagnosed with depression, she reached a point where she didn’t want to continue school anymore. This year, she found the courage to ask for help and a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders.
“This year I got the help I needed and turned myself around,” she said, adding that graduating on time is the “biggest accomplishment of my life.”
A favourite teacher helped her as she completed Grade 11 classes, before tackling Grade 12 course work to get credits for graduation.
“I had very limited time for myself,” she said.
Wade Westworth, Fisher's photography teacher, said her confidence grew tremendously in the last couple of years and you would never know she battled those issues.
Giving a speech during the school’s graduation ceremony would have been unthinkable for Fisher in junior high, he said.
She took photography classes at the school and was inspired when she was told she had a natural talent for the art form.
“I really found my drive photographing sunsets and sunrises. That's what really got me up in the morning,” Fisher said, who really hit her stride in photography around Grade 10.
This school year, Fisher began volunteering her time doing photography for the school for extra credits, and she jumped at every opportunity to capture special moments for her fellow students.
“She spent literally hundreds of hours outside of her regular classes doing photography for the benefit of the school,” Westworth said.
With a knack for portraiture, she took individual and team photos for every team in basketball provincials, he said.
All this from a student who, at the start of the school year, wasn’t sure she would be able to graduate.
Fisher knew that it would take a tremendous amount of effort, Westworth said, but she got at it.
Attending Lethbridge College in the fall, Fisher will take business classes and pursue professional photography. She plans to go into veterinary sciences after that.
“We grew up on a farm,” she said, “so I was brought into that environment, and I just loved helping animals and making sure that they're okay.”
It is a little bit sad to be leaving Oilfields, she said, but she’s excited for the future.
No longer being treated for depression, she still seeks help and talks about what she is feeling. She tells people to keep on trucking and to never give up.
“I almost (gave up)," she said, "but if I did, I wouldn't be getting to where I am."