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KITTITAS — It has been anything but normal the past couple of years with the COVID-19 pandemic playing havoc with the world order.

But Kittitas Secondary School senior Jillian Provaznik stayed the course, and like all high school seniors at this point in their lives, she is counting down the days until graduation.

She is headed to Swarthmore College in eastern Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from Philadelphia, so the next stage is big step. But taking a minute to take a deep breath and look around, she can definitely see how the pandemic helped prepare her to adjust, adapt and even to enjoy the moment.

“I think this whole year helped me personally on a lot of different levels,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Jillian do you want to do this? Because if you don’t want to, you’re not gonna.’

“There really wasn’t much pain involved with not turning an assignment in or getting your fundraiser approved on time. It was about taking the initiative and doing things because you want to be a good person.”

She is active in more than her fair share of school activities and business ventures. She is an entrepreneur and has her own baking business called “Jilly Bakes,” specializing in cakes and pies.

She served as the Associated Student Body president. She was active in Family Career Community Leaders of America and, she holds the school record in the javelin, which she’ll compete at at the next level.

As she prepares to shut the door on the Year of the COVID, persevering made her stronger.

“In the beginning of the year, Kittitas was fully remote. But since I was the ASB president, I had to come in almost every day after school to get caught up with faculty, board meetings and motivation and stuff like that,” she said.

“It made it hard to connect with students because there was at no point when I was around anybody. Some people love it, some people hate it. I missed it because it’s hard to be engaged in everything without being there. So, I did my best and continued to participate in the extra-curriculars I’m in and stay connected through social media.”

As she sat, reflecting back, in some ways it’s hard to understand when you’re in the eye of the storm, she said. But the sun pops through and it’s a bright new day.

IMPORTANCE OF FCCLA

This year was a little like 2019 when she was on the verge of saying “whatever,” then ended up winning national recognition when Kittitas Secondary School FCCLA chapter was selected as the 2019 National First Place Financial Fitness Award winners, sponsored by Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

“I would say FCCLA is the organization that instilled the values that I have right now,” Provaznik said. “My first year in FCCLA, I went to state with a project. Then I didn’t qualify. I was like, OK I’m done with that. I don’t want to fail anymore.

“And then I went to another leadership conference and my adviser called me and said, ‘You just won a national award with your project. And you said you were done.’ ”

Provaznik wrote and was awarded a “Jump $tart Grant” which FCCLA used to finance their peer education project, “Making Change Through Peer Education.”

They partnered with Junior Achievement to receive training to peer educate all seventh-grade students at Kittitas Secondary School about the importance of being financially fit through a series of 12 lessons. As the national First Place High School Award winner, the Kittitas Secondary FCCLA chapter received a $1,000 award, which was presented at the 2019 FCCLA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California.

Adversity sparks a drive, she said. You get out of life what you put into it. Where 2020, graduating seniors in Kittitas went through a drive-through graduation in the football stadium. This year’s Class of 2021 will receive their diplomas live and in-person.

“I’m 11 days from being done. It seems like it went from 50 days to 2 overnight,” she said. “Who’s to say it didn’t all pay off during trying times? I guess I’ll find out.”

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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