Darby Jervis saw both her parents dive into a world of heroin addiction.
She lost her mom to a heroin overdose when she was 8 years old. That same year, she came home from a vacation with family friends to learn her father was in prison.
The family she had travelled with became her new family.
Starting her preteen years in such turmoil, Darby adopted a motto at age 12 that most adults can't swallow: "No regrets."
The Sun Valley High School senior used that to torpedo her through trials that followed: becoming a mom at 15, being homeless, juggling work, school and parenting on her own.
Today, the 18-year-old carries a smile on her face, not a chip on her shoulder, and looks forward to graduating from high school.
Darby first came to Sun Valley in 2007 after finishing at Mesa's Poston Junior High School. Some of her five brothers also attended Sun Valley, a Mesa charter high school, so she was familiar with the program and the schedule suited her.
Just two years later, her son, Nathan, was born, and Darby took a year off. But she longed to return to the school.
"It's my safe place," she says.
Encouraged by teachers, she enrolled in Sun Valley's certified nurses' assistant program.
This spring, Darby, vice president of the school's National Honor Society, will graduate with accolades. In July, she'll take the exam that will allow her to start working in the field, with plans to start college within a year.
"It's going to be amazing to be able to put my energy into something that affects, not only my life, but others," she says.
Though she's not sure what she'll study in college, she's applying for scholarships to make it possible. She loves to write. She wants to give back to the community. She's considered teaching, medicine and counseling.
"There's no doubt whatever she chooses she'll be wildly successful," Shawn Coats, Sun Valley's director of vocational education, says. "She is an amazing inspiration to other students. She's overcome some obstacles adults would have a hard time overcoming ... She has such a positive outlook."
With all the trouble she's seen in her life, Darby admits, "I'd be stuck. I'd be trapped," without that "no regrets" motto.
"Instead, I've transformed it into something I can grow off of ... Don't feel sorry for me. It makes me uncomfortable when people say, ‘Oh you poor thing,'" she says. "I try to take everything from everywhere ... All I want is to see this world be successful."
"Everything is perfect, even though I'm sleeping on someone else's couch."
She's also tremendously motivated by her son and hopes her ability to cut through life's struggles to find success will be an inspiration to him.
"I want to make sure my son knows you can work hard and have it pay off."