Fernando Chavarin started his senior year at Central Medford High School with a 1.5 GPA and little hope of graduating.

Fernando Chavarin started his senior year at Central Medford High School with a 1.5 GPA and little hope of graduating.

But as a result of his diligence, his teachers' patience and his counselor's relentless "hounding," Chavarin will graduate with a 3.0 GPA on June 14 to become the first person in his immediate family with a high school diploma.

"I didn't even know I was that smart," he said Wednesday.

Chavarin attended North Medford High School for three years but rarely went to class, choosing instead to hang out with friends and get high, he said.

During that time, he dropped out twice — once during his freshman year and once during his sophomore year.

"When I went back my junior year, I was doing better, but I still had a lot of F's," he said.

Last year, Chavarin transferred from North to Central so he could get more support. He also gave up drugs, losing many friends in the process, he said.

"I decided I wanted a better future for myself," he said.

His transformation wasn't immediate. At Central he still slacked off, but when he did, his counselor, Michelle Maupin-Cornelius, would call him into her office and reprimand him. This happened frequently.

"Mrs. Cornelius, she was pushing me, pushing me, pushing me," Chavarin said.

Maupin-Cornelius said she was constantly reminding Chavarin, "You need to be in school. You're bright. You need to go to college. You need to get going."

"He has good ethics and values," she said. "He's polite, kind, gracious and articulate ... and he's always had these skills. He just didn't know it, and he didn't know how to use them and articulate them."

Chavarin attended the two-week, spring break interventions at Central to get caught up and has already completed all his requirements to graduate.

Neither Chavarin's older sister nor his parents graduated from high school. He said his mom was disappointed in many of his life choices but was very happy to see him graduate.

Five months ago, Chavarin took a job doing custodial work at the high school. Although he's done with his classes, he continues to show up at the school every day at 4 p.m. and work for two hours. He and one other student sweep and mop 15 classrooms, as well as the halls, cafeteria and bathrooms.

"I didn't ever think I would be doing this," he said Wednesday with a broom in his hand. "I don't like cleaning."

Nonetheless, he said the job has taught him that he must work to get what he wants in life.

Chavarin plans to attend Rogue Community College, starting this winter, and later transfer to Portland State University to study nursing.

Chavarin's family moved to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 5 years old. His relatives still live there, and he has visited and seen the level of medical care available there. One day, he would like to return to Mexico and open a clinic, but in the meantime, he just wants to "help people."

Last year, Chavarin had four stars tattooed behind his ear. He said they're his personal reminder to strive for success.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or by email at tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.