Turning her life around

When she was 9 years old, she began smoking cigarettes, and by 11, she was smoking marijuana.

By the time she was in high school, Kyli Hilligoss had used prescription pills, alcohol and cocaine to combat her depression.

Now sober, Hilligoss wants to use her life experience to assist children when they feel like turning to drugs, she said.

Hilligoss graduates from Clark-Pleasant Academy this week. She had dropped out of high school as a junior and attended substance abuse classes.

When she decided to come back to school, she had 23 credits to make up — meaning it would have taken her five years to graduate.

But when Hilligoss came to Clark-Pleasant Academy, she had a goal. She knew she had to graduate so she could become a substance abuse counselor, which had been her biggest support when trying to get sober, she said. Her counselor had used drugs in the past and now was mentoring teenagers to try and get them clean, Hilligoss said.

“Every time I had a craving, I was able to call her and talk myself out of it,” Hilligoss said. “She was just really supportive.”

Hilligoss has wanted to be a counselor her whole life, and seeing the help that a substance abuse counselor could provide made Hilligoss interested in that career, she said.

Still, finishing her diploma was a year-long struggle for Hilligoss, she said. She went back and forth between wanting to give up and wanting to earn her diploma, she said.

Hilligoss said she knew she would not be able to get many jobs if she didn’t finish,

“The day I graduated was probably the best day of my life,” Hilligoss said. “It makes it less stressful to try to plan your future, knowing that you have any opportunity, because my future has been stressful for me, not really knowing where I was going to go or what I was going to do. So now that I have a high school diploma, it opens it up.”

The Hilligoss File

Name: Kyli Hilligoss

Age: 18

Residence: Greenwood

Graduating from: Clark-Pleasant Alternative Academy

Future plans: Attend Ivy Tech Community College to study human services, with hopes of being a substance abuse counselor