Grads at a Glance: Mary Gilliland, Centennial High School Class of 2018


The world looks like a much brighter place to Mary Gilliland than it did just a few years ago.

The Centennial graduate feels empowered now, not helpless. She is optimistic and excited for her future. That’s a big shift her experience in late middle and early high school, when she struggled with anxiety and depression that sometimes made it impossible for her to get out of bed. 

“Describing anxiety and depression to someone who doesn’t have it is like describing a new color they haven’t seen,” she said. “Finding my people who helped me get out of it and help me understand myself was really important.”

During these darker days, Mary found herself unable to attend her neighborhood high school. She remembers sitting in the passenger seat of her mother’s car, unable to will herself to go inside. As she searched for a solution, she decided to enroll at Centennial. 

The difference was immediate. 

The first class she took focused on learning healthy emotional behaviors. Its strict attendance policy and supportive curriculum helped Mary turn a corner. She started leaning on her teachers for more support. She felt herself feeling happier. 

“I used to be a pessimist and see the world as ‘everything is against me,’” she said. “Now, I see the world as one, working together. Now I feel like I’m in control because I choose to be kind, and I choose to be happy, and I choose to do good things for myself.”