Harley Rust is finishing high school as valedictorian of the 2022 Benson Digital Learning Center class with a grade point average of 3.7.
She is the daughter of Kimberly and Joshua Sparkman of St. David.
Rust decided to enroll in Digital Learning Center during her junior year of high school, just as in-person learning started up again after COVID had caused widespread classroom closures.
“Because of how COVID changed the whole learning environment, I was drawn to the Digital Learning Center for a number of reasons,” Rust said. “Most of all, I really liked the idea of studying at my own pace and possibly graduating early, which is what I did. I was able to complete the courses that I needed to graduate in the first nine weeks of the school year.”
With a graduating class of 37 students, Rust said she liked the small class sizes and opportunities for one-on-one time with her teachers.
Rust is a Walmart employee and plans to continue working as she saves money for cosmetology school. After visiting Aveda Cosmetology Institute in Tucson, she was impressed with the program and hopes to attend school there in the near future.
“I feel as though I made a good decision in finishing high school at the learning center,” she said. “I liked the atmosphere there, the learning environment, the fun barbecues, the friends that I made, and I loved having Mrs. (Shannon) Sherman as a teacher. She is very supportive and cares for each and every one of her students. Attending school at the learning center was a good fit for me.”
When asked what words of advice she has for upcoming students, Rust responded, “Always try to do your best. Don’t get discouraged, even if you’re disappointed with your grades. Just keep working hard to get through tough challenges. Do your best and you’ll succeed.”
When she’s not busy with school and her job at Walmart, Rust enjoys hiking, painting and collecting rocks.
“I’m looking forward to cosmetology school and starting a career in that field,” she said. “Finishing high school as valedictorian of my class is an accomplishment I wasn’t expecting. It’s very exciting.”