BILLINGS – Billings is chock full of amazing high school students. Some will take the stage at MetraPark Sunday to graduate.
Out of all those students, there’s one at Senior High who, despite abuse and disability, will graduate and attend college this fall.
“Me being in foster care, me being really sick and always being out of school, I didn’t think I would make it. So it’s a pretty big deal to me,” said Kiki Hargrove, a Billings Senior High senior.
Hargrove, 18, didn’t have an easy road to her diploma. She was born with a genetic condition that left her legs underdeveloped. She has been wheelchair bound her entire life.
That’s difficult enough, but life would throw Hargrove more challenges.
She said she suffered through a difficult home life during middle school, including abuse at home. Hargrove called middle school the hardest two years of her life.
Teachers at middle school noticed a bruise on Hargrove’s neck, and Child Protective Services removed her from abusive home the same day, Hargrove said.
After living with an aunt the summer before freshman year, the aunt put Hargrove back in the foster care system because, according to Hargrove, she was too expensive to take care of.
So, Hargrove was back in the foster care system and attending a Billings high school. Hargrove said she didn’t have it any easier there.
November of Hargrove’s freshman year, she met the foster parents she would eventually call mom and dad.
“I was just so happy. I’m like, when can I move in,” Hargrove said. “And they said, ‘anytime.’ And the next day, I moved in with them. It didn’t take long after I asked if I could call them Mom and Dad. And they seemed like they were the real deal. And I thought you know I might as well just start calling them that because I’m going to be here for a long time.”
November of her freshman year, Hargrove transferred to Senior after she found it to be a better fit. Struggling with sickness, and missed school, Hargrove credits her teachers for keeping her on track to graduation.
“I worked my butt off to try to pass all of my classes freshman year,” Hargrove said. (Teachers) “always wanted to know how I was, how I was feeling because they knew what was going on at home. They were just always there for me. I feel like if it wasn’t for my teachers I wouldn’t be graduating.”
With a story like Hargrove’s, it’s hard not to be moved. Does she ever get tired of being labeled an inspiration?
“At times I do get tired of it, but if I’m that inspiring to have people go out and do stuff that they were scared of or they didn’t know what to do about. Then that makes me really happy because I’m changing people’s lives without even knowing it.”
Hargrove said after graduation she will attend Rocky Mountain College in Billings to study equine therapy.
Reporting by Mitch Lagge for MTN News