Valerie, a graduate of Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., is on a path to change her life.
Valerie has endured physical abuse, feelings of betrayal, and drug addiction. Through hard work and faith, she has overcome them all. Today this remarkable woman has her high school diploma and studies at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDCCC) as she prepares to open her own small business.
Early life in D.C.
Valerie was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and lived with her mother and four siblings. She has happy memories of church activities but recalls an assault by two boys and a subsequent beating by her father. By sixth grade, other girls started to call her “church girl.” Feeling she had to choose between friends and God, Valerie kept to herself to avoid conflict. In junior high, she started missing school and began stealing food from the grocery store and getting into fights. At fifteen, she was pregnant and gave birth to a boy. She named him after his fourteen-year-old father. Eleven months later their second son was born. Valerie dropped out of the twelfth grade.
Drugs, abuse, and depression
By seventeen, Valerie had developed drug and alcohol issues. She got high to deal with pain caused by the infidelity of the men in her life. Two years later, the family house burned down, and Valerie and family moved to a hotel. She started a GED® prep program, but without day care for her children, it was hard to manage—and she just wanted to get high.
Finally, Valerie was able to move into her own apartment. She took in her sister and infant nephew. Tragically, Valerie’s nephew died in her care. Although the accident was not her fault, she felt guilty and became depressed. She used drugs to numb her pain, not realizing how addicted she would become. Then she had her third and fourth sons. Eventually, she gave birth to a fifth son who weighed 5.5 pounds. Valerie calls him her “miracle baby.”
The long road back—ups and downs and a few more miracles
The next decade of Valerie’s life was challenging, but at forty-three, she started attending a new church and gradually stopped getting high and gave up cigarettes. Except for one relapse, she has never gone back./p>
Eventually Valerie heard about Academy of Hope. She came to class every day she could and was grateful that the supportive staff made allowances for her situation, knowing she was motivated and hard working. Valerie particularly appreciated the professional support she got in math and writing. In fact, encouraged by her teacher to enter a districtwide essay contest called “A Home is Where the Heart Is.” Valerie won third place! When she had to leave school because of illness, Academy of Hope continued to work with her.
A year later, Valerie improved her math scores and transferred to the NEDP, which allowed her to work online from home. Completing her last competency after just three months, more quickly than anyone, Valerie graduated. “It’s been a struggle, but I made it. I came, and I just kept coming.” Of Academy of Hope, she says, “I got joy and love and learned patience and how to enter and win essay contests!” She is grateful to the Academy for giving her one more chance “I think they were more proud of me than I was!”
Valerie entered and completed a certificate program in customer service at UDC. She started at UDCCC studying business technology. Her grades are good, and her children and husband are rightfully proud of her. “Who’d ever have thought?”
We wish Valerie the best of luck as she continues on her path to open her own business.