By Karen Carroll, Executive Director, and Elizabeth Johnson
We have many reasons to celebrate the residents’ at Jesse’s House, but we have a special reason for celebration this time of year. We just had three seniors graduate! That may not seem like cause for a big celebration. After all, we live in a community where it is expected, but for the population we serve at Jesse’s House, graduating from high school is the exception, not the rule. Nationally, only half of foster youth graduate from high school and out of those, only 6-8% graduate on time. Research demonstrates that every time a child changes schools, they lose up to six months of their education and many foster youths may change schools 10-15 times throughout their education.
Over the past three years, all of the residents who were placed with us during their senior year worked hard to make up for lost time and graduated from high school on time. That is a statistic we are very proud of! Many youths in foster care have many challenges to overcome and our girls were no exception. Just to show how resilient and remarkable they are; we want to share their stories.
Lauren changed schools 26 times, 12 of those changes occurred during her high school years. For most of her freshman and sophomore years she was homeless. Determined to graduate on time, she took 18 classes her senior year which meant taking four classes after school and six additional online classes. Lauren is the recipient of the Elite Eagle award given to one graduating senior who has fought against adversity and remained tenacious during their academic journey. Lauren graduated on the A/B Honor roll and is the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She is interested in becoming a social worker or lawyer.
Julia was homeless until being placed at Jesse’s House the summer before her junior year. Without a laptop or essential school supplies, without a place to eat a meal and sometimes without a meal to eat, without a bed to sleep in or heat to keep her warm, without a place to take a warm shower and wash her hair, she challenged herself and enrolled in all honors classes. Julia graduated as a member of the National Art Honor Society and earned a 3.68 GPA. She is interested in pursuing a career in animation. When asked what she was most proud of, she replied, “I’m not one to boast about my academics, I just feel happy people know me”.
Samantha said she was most proud that she “never gave up”. Through estrangement from family, changing schools often, and frequently the target of bullying, she continued to strive for excellence. She took AP and honors classes, was dual-enrolled in college classes her senior year, received awards for academic achievement in business and animation, earned a 3.74 GPA, and graduated with honors. Samantha is interested in pursuing a career in graphic design.
When people talk about role models, they usually think about athletes, musicians, or actors. When we talk about role models, we think about these girls who proved to themselves and everyone around them that they could not only overcome, but excel despite their difficult circumstances. To say we are proud is an understatement. Thank you to the community for the outpouring of love and support. It was truly magnificent. To help support these young ladies or our mission of providing a safe haven to females who have suffered childhood trauma, please go to our web site www.jesseshouse.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality