ASPIRE graduate kicked it into high gear senior year |

ASPIRE graduate kicked it into high gear senior year

by Amy Alonzo
ASPIRE Academy High School senior Brandon Lucia kicked it into high gear his senior year in order to graduate on time.
Amy Alonzo |


What: ASPIRE Academy High School commencement ceremony

When:7-9 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Douglas County Community and Senior Center, 1329 Waterloo Lane

ASPIRE Academy High School senior Brandon Lucia is the first to admit he hasn’t always made the best choices about his education.

“I was hanging out with the wrong crowd,” he said. “I was never really motivated. I would rather slack off. I found everything except school more important.”

After finishing his junior year at Douglas High School several credits short of where he needed to be, something clicked for Brandon — the 18-year-old realized he wanted to earn his standard diploma, and he wanted to do it on time.

His mom, Linda, has had lifelong medical problems, including congestive heart failure. After his junior year she seemed worse, he said.

“I always knew she had heart problems, but it never really hit me until last year,” he said. “I noticed all the things we couldn’t do in the summer.

“I feel like I haven’t done anything to make my mom proud, even though she says she’s proud of me. I wanted her to go to my graduation. I worked my butt off for this. I wanted it to be in time for her to be there.”

Brandon was born in California, lived in Oregon during his middle school years, then bounced back to California before landing in the Carson Valley. He spent a stint in foster care, and his dad is not part of his life.

“My brother is pretty much my dad,” he said of his brother Travis, who is 10 years his senior.

During his time at Douglas, Brandon said he spent his after-school hours focused on his mom rather than on homework. He felt his teachers thought he was lazy, he said.

“I just fit the mold of what they expected of me,” he said. “I didn’t think Douglas was right for me. It’s just too big — when I’d try to get help, there were too many students.”

He requested a transfer to ASPIRE (all students pursuing integrity, responsibility and education), and he describes the switch in schools as “life-changing.”

He buckled down and took 15 courses his senior year, making up for missing credits. ASPIRE does not assign homework, which freed him up after school to focus on his mom.

“I just got one class done at a time, and I saw them (credits) disappear one at a time … and I knew I was that much closer to graduating,” he said.

He joined the school’s leadership program as well, helping organize school events such as prom.

“I never thought I’d be in leadership,” he said. But, at ASPIRE, “It’s like everybody cares about you, and that’s what changed for me. I always felt like nobody cared about me, so why should I care.”

Brandon isn’t sure what the future holds after graduation — he’s considering working in construction for a few years before possibly studying to become a teacher.

“He’s what we all need to be — he’s outgoing, positive and perseveres against all odds,” said ASPIRE elective teacher Ashlee Nicoll. “He has a perspective about life I wish more adults had. [He’s] one of my favorite human beings. He’s amazing.”

“He’s definitely resilient,” added English teacher Alecia Rohde. “He’s survived more than most people have in 18 years.”