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Family comes first and inspires her

Katie Noland has had to balance motherhood, work and classes to graduate from Kenyon-Wanamingo High School.

By Sandy Hadler, contributor

KENYON — Mature beyond her years is the only way to describe Kenyon-Wanamingo senior Katie Noland. A teenage mother who also works 20 to 30 hours a week at Subway and maintains a 3.8 grade point average, Noland has had no time to participate in sports and school activities that other kids may take for granted. Instead she spends every spare minute with her son, William, and her family.

“I can’t waste time on school activities. Money is more important,” she said.

William will turn 3 on June 12. She called the birthdate “perfect timing.”

“He’s been with me everywhere since day one,” she said. “I had all summer to be with him. I got my permit and my license and I signed up for classes. At that time, I didn’t want anything to do with school. It was personal. I didn’t ask for extensions on my homework or days off. I did what I had to do.”

She added, “My family and friends have been great. They have been so supportive. My friends bring gifts for William on his birthday and holidays, and he begs to go see my friend Ashley.”

Noland spoke highly of William’s father, whom she said worked and supported them until he was deported from the country in August 2012.

“People change and I won’t know what I want to do until he comes back,” she said. “But I want him to come back for William.”

Noland said she was “big in math” and that the subject came easily to her. She loved biotech and biology and the projects she did in those classes. They will provide a basis for her when she attends Rochester Community Technical College in the fall.

After two years, she intends to transfer to Winona State, where she plans to become a registered nurse. Her goal is to be employed at Mayo Clinic.

“I want to be that person who changes lives. That’s all that counts for me,” she said.

Her father, John, is her inspiration.

“He grew up having a birth defect with his kidneys. At 16 he lost one kidney. His second kidney failed in 2009, when I was 9 years old. It was traumatic,” she said.

Her mom, Donna, was a match and donated one of her kidneys to her husband. Noland explained that after the transplant, her father was “healthy until January of this year.” After he lost his job and had no insurance, he couldn’t afford the anti-rejection drugs and had to make a decision to stop taking them to continue paying the family’s bills. The result was the kidney failure. Now, he has to have dialysis three days a week. He has a full-time job, so he goes to Northfield, Minnesota, for dialysis for four to five hours, and then on to work at 11:15 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. every day.

Katie burst into tears as she described how difficult her father’s life has been. She said that at 17 her father moved out of his parents’ home and went to work so he could take care of his mother.

“He still takes care of us,” she said. “He’s tired after dialysis, but he keeps going. It has been so hard on him. We are all that he has. He has inspired me. I love him so much. I push myself to be that ‘bigger’ person, and to help him out because he has so much to live for.”

She said she hopes that someday she can donate a kidney to her father.

Regarding her own situation as a teenage mom, Noland said, “It has been a hard journey. It is hard when I have school, then I have to go to work, and I’m not with William.”

She advised others to “Make the best of what you have.” She added, “My life hasn’t been all bad. We always have our good times. I’d never go back or change anything.”

High School Principal Brent Ashland summed up her situation with admiration: “Katie is a teen mom who has met the challenge head on. She has handled this situation with determination and maturity.”

Kenyon-Wanamingo High School commencement

Who: The Knights

How many: 54

When: 2 p.m. Sunday June 1

Where: KW High School gymnasium