Sheibon Claire “Bon” Tizon grew up in a small town in the Philippines, where her family washed clothes outdoors in a large bucket and cooked meals over an open fire, mostly fish and rice grown in nearby fields.

Tizon came to the United States when she was 13, after her mother married a Mainer and moved here.

Though Tizon was a dedicated student, the transition was challenging. It was a whole new culture and she spoke little English.

“It’s been rough,” Tizon says. “I had to learn advanced subjects and English. My teachers have been very good to me. Since middle school, they’ve been helping me, and I really appreciate it.”

Tizon, 19, graduates this month from Massabesic High School, where she took Advanced Placement English and biology classes and honors chemistry. She also attended the health occupations program at Sanford Regional Technical Center and last month took the test to become a certified nursing assistant. She plans to attend York County Community College in the fall and wants to become a registered nurse.

“I want to start as a CNA and work my way up,” Tizon says. “Everybody starts somewhere and I love helping people who need care.”

Tizon, who lives in Limerick, performed with the chamber singers and played volleyball at Massabesic. She also has a part-time job at Southern Maine Health Care’s hospital in Biddeford, where she cleans offices and patient rooms each Saturday and Sunday.

And she’s an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Limington, which has played a significant role in her life here in Maine.

“I feel like God was helping me to overcome all those obstacles, so I love my church,” Tizon says.

Tizon says she appreciates her bountiful life in the United States, but she misses her extended family back in the Philippines, and she’s looking forward to visiting them in January for the first time in seven years.

She also looks forward to becoming a registered nurse and possibly taking her medical skills abroad.

“I would like to work as a travel nurse and see the world and learn about other cultures,” Tizon says.

“Or I want to work in pediatrics, because I love babies, too. Whatever I do, I want to help people.”

Read all 2017 graduates to watch profiles.

— By Kelley Bouchard