Hays High School’s commencement today no doubt will be extra special for the graduates and their families with it also being Mother’s Day.
That’s maybe especially true for Lacey Gregory.
“I looked at the calendar and I got goosebumps. I guess that’s just how it was supposed to be,” she said.
Gregory’s mother, Maggie, died in 2006. She had suffered from hepatitis and liver disease for all of Gregory’s life.
The month before that, an older sister from her father’s previous marriage, Audrey, died at 21. Audrey had Rett’s syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder that leads to physical impairments.
Gregory remembers her mother as “super personable,” but as someone who didn’t quite fit in with Hays.
“She definitely marched to the beat of her own drum,” Gregoy said. “She was not from the Hays area at all, she didn’t fit in and she made no concessions to do so all,” she said.
It’s an attitude Gregoy has developed herself.
“I’m going to be how I am, and I don’t care what you think about it,” she said.
No doubt that attitude also came from being raised by her father, Art Gregory, and spending much of her time working in his tattoo studio, Fantasy Graphics, 219 E. Eighth.
“I’ve been working the front desk since I could peek my head over it,” she said.
First-time clients didn’t take her seriously, but that didn’t last long, Gregory said.
“They would realize I actually knew what I was talking about and be forced to take me seriously,” she said.
“It definitely made me have to hold myself to a more mature standard and be able to present myself in a way I could be taken more seriously at even such a young age,” she said.
Working with the studio’s clientele also shaped her perspective on working with people.
“It’s definitely broadened my worldview and made me a lot more accepting and aware of the different demographics of people that are out there and how you have to approach them,” she said.
But developing that level of maturity early in life has given some difficulties.
“It can be very hard for me to relate to my peers at times,” she said.
However, Special Projects and Resources for Kids, a gifted program through Hays USD 489 and the West Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative, was helpful, she said.
“I was always surrounded by kids who had a little higher maturity level. I would say that was one of the most beneficial things as far as coping for me at that age,” Gregory said.
Gregory worked hard at school, and is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a handful of awards and scholarships. Among Hays High’s graduates, she is one of four to receive the $10,000 renewable Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, one of two Governor’s Scholars honoring the top 1 percent of high school graduates and one of four receiving the University of Kansas Chancellor Scholarships.
Her most surprising award, though, was the Kansas ACT Student Champion Award with a $500 scholarship.
Hays High Guidance Counselor Suellyn Stenger encouraged her to apply for the award, which honors students who have built character by overcoming hardship.
“I got word back that I wasn’t one of the national winners, and I thought that was over,” she said.
Then about a month ago, she received notice she’d been selected for the state award.
“I was mostly surprised. I didn’t even really know it was something I could have won. I was floored,” she said.
As for the future, Gregory will attend KU majoring in strategic communications, with her eye on a career in advertising.
“My dad being a tattoo artist, I have a pretty good eye for design. The psychology side of advertising really intrigues me,” she said.