HUNTERSVILLE – Just before his last year at Hopewell High School, Maliki Sanderson learned how important a diploma would be to his future.

It was something he learned after dropping out of school for two months during the second semester of his junior year.

 “I just got tired of school – waking up, coming every day – so I just stopped coming,” he said. “I tried to find a job, and that didn’t work out. I got bored just sitting at the house so I decided to go back to school … I realized you can’t really do nothing without a high school diploma.”

The missed time caused his senior year to be one of obstacles, but with the help of his counselor Kim Panzetta and Principal Mike Jones, Sanderson graduated with his classmates on June 8.

“It felt good,” he said. “I was done with school. I was glad.”

Panzetta walked Sanderson through his options for being able to graduate on time. He had to take online recovery courses in addition to his regular classes. She gave him a working station in her office during the last two weeks of school so he could finish everything on time.

Sanderson said he couldn’t have finished without her or Jones, who encouraged him every day.

At graduation, Sanderson spoke to Jones about helping a friend of his finish school like he was able to do.

“That’s what it’s all about, us empowering students and students empowering each other,” Jones said. “Wow. I’m so proud of him.”

Sanderson’s success reinforces the mission of Hopewell High – to graduate every student to be career-ready, college-ready and globally-productive citizens, Jones said.

“For us, it’s the bottom line of what we do,” he said. “They can’t pursue their careers without having certain requirements fulfilled.”

That includes the military, Jones added.

Sanderson plans to enlist in the Army, following his mother’s path. She served for 22 years.

As he leaves high school, his younger brother will enter it this fall.

His advice: “Do all the work you can. Don’t fool around. Don’t slack off cause it’s easier if you go ahead and knock it out in the beginning.”