School wasn’t always De’Nique Pickering’s favorite place to be.
She said she struggled with the workload at her previous high school in New York City. Math in particular gave her trouble, and she couldn’t find help.
Pickering, now 19, didn’t think she would graduate on time. But things changed when her family moved to Wake County in 2013 and she began attending Rolesville High School.
“I actually got saved when I moved here,” she said.
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Two years later, Pickering will become Rolesville High’s first graduate. The northern Wake school, which opened in 2013, won’t graduate its first official senior class until next year.
Pickering will walk across the stage at East Wake High School’s graduation Tuesday. East Wake, which has four small schools, will add Rolesville as its fifth school to honor her.
When she got to Rolesville High the second semester of her sophomore year, Pickering was on schedule to graduate in December 2015. But the school’s staff realized she could graduate sooner if she took a few more classes each quarter.
“She just pulled it all together,” said Rolesville principal Ericka Lucas. “I credit her with all of that. It’s just awesome.”
The school wasn’t prepared to offer 12th-grade classes, so Pickering had to enroll in several online courses. Her final semester, she took English 4 and civics online.
She said online classes felt unnatural, and she would have preferred to take them in traditional classroom settings. But the timing of the class was more important than the physical location, she said.
“I just wanted to graduate on time,” Pickering said. “I didn’t want to sit around for another year.”
While she was working toward graduation, Pickering found her passion – and perhaps a future career. She took part in the school’s elective culinary track.
The cooking classes helped Pickering succeed, said Kristen Ratliff, Rolesville High’s dean of students.
“Her maturity level has really grown,” Ratliff said. “She’s getting older and making decisions for herself and finding a niche for herself in the things she likes. She’s really come into herself.”
Culinary classes weren’t offered at her former school, Pickering said. She was always drawn to cooking and liked to watch culinary shows on television.
After graduation, she plans to attend The Chef’s Academy, a culinary school in Morrisville.
“It’s just something I grabbed on to,” she said of cooking. “I like making food and people liking it.”
She also found time for an extracurricular activity at Rolesville. To get more involved at school, Pickering joined the track team, participating in the shot put and discus events.
Being Rolesville High’s first graduate comes with a lot of pressure, Pickering said. She said she hasn’t had a chance to process it all and probably won’t until she walks across the stage.
It will be a moment she’s worked hard for.
Pickering’s father, Don Pickering, said his daughter never gave up, even when things were tough.
“We’re over the moon with joy,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Graduations will bring traffic
Many Wake County high schools will host graduation ceremonies this weekend at the Raleigh Convention Center. The events will bring increased traffic downtown, as more than 60,000 people are expected to attend each day.
Go to bit.ly/1uokllg to view the complete graduation schedule.