Early morning alarm clocks and wake ups can be a burden for any parent during the school year, especially if there's a longer drive to school involved and the student is not yet driving themselves.

For Heather Curtis, it's a routine she knows far too well. Over the past three years, she has been waking up with her daughters Taryn and Mackenzie to drive them to school and get them there on time, which isn't always easy with a 28 minute commute each way (on a good day).

Curtis enrolled her daughter, Taryn, from out-of-district when she was a sophomore in high school. Not fully knowing what to expect at the new school and drive, they took it day-by-day.

"Taryn was in drivers training, so she would drive to school and I would drive her home. It was nice having someone to split that longer drive up with," Heather laughed.

Within weeks, Curtis says she saw a tremendous change in Taryn. By the end of her first year in the district, she was doing well academically, socially, and athletically on the softball field. While all of those things were great, it was her mental health and attitude that her mother noticed the most.

"She was happy and thriving there," Heather added, "She was finding success in sports and academics, and that was my drive to doing this and making this longer drive to Hamilton. I'm always all about my kids and Taryn was having positive influences socially and was heavily involved, so how can you not make the drive?"

The following year, Curtis made the decision to enroll her younger daughter Mackenzie into Hamilton after homeschooling her for years. While Mackenzie found similar successes as her older sister, things got a bit more busy for their mother.

"After Mackenzie enrolled was when it all set in," Heather chuckled. "I was driving around like 'Holy cow,' driving to get her from softball games and other events, there was a lot of driving involved in that. I was actually happy when there were some away games because some of them were closer to us than the home ones."

Now, two years later, Mackenzie is set to begin her freshman year at Hamilton High School in the fall and Taryn graduated from HHS in May. Admittedly, Curtis says gas prices have been a topic of discussion for her and her husband over the past three years but leaving Hamilton Schools simply is not an option, even if Mackenzie may have her driving around more than usual this year with plans to do competitive and sideline cheer as well as track.

"I've had absolutely great experiences with the staff; from in-school counseling, to front office staff, and teachers communicating with me consistently, I find so many things that accommodate our family and what we've needed, it's a place we will not leave."

Taryn is now attending Wayne State University this fall as a science major and according to Heather, Hamilton helped prepare her.

"Work Based Learning is huge at Hamilton and it's probably my favorite part of their academic experience there," she mentioned. "Just the fact that they're showing these kids the careers that are out there instead of just telling them to go to college is huge. They're truly showcasing every single aspect and with Mackenzie not yet knowing what she wants to do after high school, she has the Careerline Tech Center at the Ottawa Area ISD as an option to explore and she'll be diversified in different experiences through the Work Based Learning programs."

Make no mistake about it, Heather will be counting down the days over the next year-and-a-half before Mackenzie gets her drivers license. However, for the time being, she'll continue to make the drive from Moline to Hamilton, all with a smile on her face because her kids are not only happy, they're thriving as Hawkeyes.