Windham Tech student walks a tough path to graduation

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Mon., Jun. 20, 2011
Stephanie Cote graduated on June 17 from Windham Tech High School. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Stephanie Cote graduated on June 17 from Windham Tech High School. Photo by Melanie Savage.

It hasn't been easy for Stephanie Cote to get where she is today. The recent Windham Technical High School graduate stands on the verge of a new life full of promise. But just over three months ago, Cote's future was chaotic and uncertain. Her relationship with her mom, strained for years, worsened. “My mom kicked me out of her house,” said Cote. To make matters worse, Cote's mother was uncooperative about completing forms to obtain financial aid. Her dream of attending college was in jeopardy.

Cote's dad, divorced from her mom when she was small, lives in Rocky Hill. Between his work demands, the price of gas and other complications, it wasn't possible for Cote to live with her dad and still finish senior year at Windham Tech. “She only had three months to go,” said her father, Armand Cote. “She really wanted to finish up at Tech.” Fortunately, the family had friends in Mansfield. “They helped us tremendously,” said Armand. The family allowed Stephanie to live with them for the last three months of school.

It was the Windham Tech guidance staff who helped Cote through her financial aid problems. Because she was no longer living with her mom, Cote was able to apply for assistance, with the staff's help, on her own. “They helped me get that all straightened out,” she said.

Now that school is out, Stephanie will live with her dad until it's time to move into her dorm at college. She plans to attend Cazenova College in upstate New York, where she'll study interior design. On June 17, she accepted her diploma from Windham Tech's Department of Architecture Technology. Older brother Steven, also a Tech grad, made the trip up from North Carolina to be at the ceremony. Steven is currently working as a mechanic in the Marines.

“When we were younger, we talked about opening a body shop together,” said Stephanie. “He and I have always been close. My brother is the one who has always been there for me.”

Cote describes her graduating class as spontaneous and funny. “If there's something that would be funny, you can be sure that someone is going to do it,” she said. “I'd say almost everybody is a class clown, pretty much.”

Most are also college-bound. “Everyone in my shop is going to college, except for one,” said Cote. “A lot of the students in other shops are going to college, too.”

Despite the turmoil of the past few years, Cote has spent a lot of time serving the community. She has volunteered to help disabled children with horseback riding, helped an elderly neighbor care for her horses, and volunteered for organizations including Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, the Girl Scouts, and the fire department. For her volunteerism, she received an Outstanding Citizen Award from the Ionic Lodge. She was also recognized during Senior Night at Tech for continuing studies in her trade.

For now, Cote plans to work on obtaining her driver's license and getting ready for her college career.

“She went through a lot,” said her dad. “It's amazing what she accomplished. I'm very proud of her.”

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