PHOTOS: Mt. Tallac Continuation High School and Transitional Learning Center graduation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

PHOTOS: Mt. Tallac Continuation High School and Transitional Learning Center graduation

Lana Ashley Rose Baker grew up involved in gangs — the closest thing to family for her — and going to a crack house with her mother. She worried her mom would overdose, and was always searching for enough money to provide for her little sister. Baker said they would sleep in motels if they were lucky, and she battled anger and depression. Now, however, she's a high school graduate.

Mt. Tallac Continuation High School is designed for students such as Baker, who have struggled with situations life has thrown at them. The school's mascot itself is a phoenix — according to counselor Amy Jackson, the firebird is known for regenerating when hurt or wounded: "It represents the students who have overcome obstacles in their lives and have come out stronger to reach their goals."

At Mt. Tallac Continuation High School and Transitional Learning Center's joint graduation ceremony, held Friday, June 8, Baker told her story, encouraging her fellow classmates to believe in themselves despite adverse circumstances.

"I'm here to say that if you can think it, you can do it. Don't let statistics or prejudices get in the way of what you believe you can do," Baker said. Despite her past, she graduated high school two years earlier than expected.

Baker's fellow graduates Kai Heiden and Tucker Leonard also spoke at the ceremony, addressing the rest of their class — 76 students in all — about the positive impact Mt. Tallac Continuation High School had on them, thanking the teachers for their influence and looking ahead to the future.

Keynote speaker Leon Malmed took the stage, too, telling his story of growing up as an orphan, surviving the Holocaust and eventually going on to graduate from business schools at both UCLA and Stanford University.

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"You may rethink the future, but never rethink the choice of being a good human being," Malmed said. He concluded with an uplifting message for the graduates: "Above the clouds that will dim your life from time to time, the sky is always blue."