Shauntese, an NEDP graduate from Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., persevered over many life trials to receive her high school diploma and change the course of her life.
Coping with her mother’s mental illness from a young age, Shauntese learned early how to look after others. Her ability and readiness to support her family led to providing care at the end of her grandmother’s life, during her mother’s illness, and for her husband. Luckily, at Academy of Hope, she found the support and guidance she needed to take care of herself.
Life challenges from the start
When Shauntese was two, she moved in with family members. Neighborhood violence and drugs created a chaotic environment, and Shauntese lost two brothers. Yet, she has happy memories of going to movies and the zoo with her father and being adored by older sisters and brothers. She remembers camping, fishing, crafts, and dramatic performances organized by Community Resources, Inc.
Because she neglected school, Shauntese repeated 7th grade. She explains, “I then decided to get my act together and stay focused.” When her grandmother had a stroke, Shauntese moved into her aunt’s house. She enrolled in a high school she found “shocking” – huge, far from home, classes too large. At 16, she left to become the family caregiver. They survived on her father’s SSI benefits. At 18 Shauntese was pregnant. She moved in with her older sister in an area that was “terrible, with shootings and drive-bys.” Then she met her future husband.
She enrolled in a GED® prep course. She failed the math test by one point. She tried four more times but could not pass math. For the next five years, she worked at a program for mentally disabled adults and went from bathroom aide to classroom aide to supervisor. The work required “a strong mind and heart.” Soon Shauntese married and quit her job, as her husband earned a good living. A second son was born two years later. Then she began raising her sister’s baby. Unfortunately, after her husband lost his job, he developed serious health issues.
Although the road was still rocky, the time was finally right to earn her diploma
Her husband’s illness gave Shauntese the push to attempt her GED® certificate. She found Academy of Hope and started classes. She remembers coming to class in tears worrying about her husband. Despite his serious illness, her husband brought Shauntese to school every day and encouraged her. Academy of Hope motivated her, provided emotional support, and pushed her to do better. She loved student collaboration and learning – including math. “Academy of Hope makes you feel good and motivates you to keep going. What I love is that I’ve never heard anyone say no since I’ve been here.” For a while, she stopped attending and Academy of Hope staff called and advised her, “Focus on yourself. You can do it!” And, she did. She earned her NEDP diploma.
Shauntese says she “cried like a baby” at graduation as her kids witnessed her earning her diploma. She takes pride in the fact her sons and nephew are all doing exceptionally well in school, and her daughter is a college freshman who plans to become a lawyer.
Since graduation, Shauntese has enrolled in the Academy of Hope hospitality course and is looking forward to gaining the skills she needs to achieve her goal – a good job in the hotel industry. We wish Shauntese good luck in her pursuit of those great career plans!
July 3, 2018