Finding Her Way
Talitha lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. But now she's starting college and on the road to making her dreams a reality.
This success story was originally published in Beyond the Classroom, the official blog of the Communities In Schools national office.
When my son was very young, he would offer unfiltered commentary on life as he knew it, no matter what the occasion. Things like “Who would have thought a boring mom would turn out to be so funny?” when I shared an anecdote about my day. Or “Does everyone have to grow up? I want to stay a kid forever,” when we talked about how people sometimes live away from home at “that school for grown-ups” (aka college).
Of course now that my son is in high school, college is on our minds more than ever. And, happily, it’s a reality for many students in the Communities In Schools network. Talitha Halley is one young lady who exemplifies so many of the students we work with. Last week, Talitha – who was featured in a success story last year – sent us her high school graduation announcement. Talitha began her incredible journey in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, when her family relocated to Houston from New Orleans. Wrenched from childhood friends and everything she knew, Talitha was shaken but determined to move forward with her life as an 8th grader in Houston.
She and her family were introduced to Communities In Schools of Houston during her freshman year in high school. Her site coordinator, Donna Watkins, provided encouragement and needed resources. Talitha’s confidence increased and she started looking for opportunities to get more involved in school… playing volleyball, serving as student council representative, and eventually applying for and getting accepted into the Congressional Page Program. She was thrilled to live, work and study in Washington, D.C. for a semester last year before returning to Sharpstown Senior High. While living in D.C., Talitha attended a Communities In Schools board of directors meeting event and spoke to the crowd about her transformation, and the impact the organization has had on her life.
With her graduation announcement, Talitha had shared more exciting news: she had fallen in love with Howard University while living in D.C. and had recently been accepted to study there. Donna Watkins is currently working with Talitha and her family to obtain funding for tuition. Talitha plans to major in political science at Howard.
After being displaced from her home in 2005, and throughout high school, Talitha would tell herself, “God has a plan for me and there must be something better in store.” She had the love and support of her mom, Geneva Halley, and “Miss Donna” to keep her going.
Like Talitha, my son is excited about “that school for grown-ups” and in a few short years we, too, will begin the trek of his leaving the nest for college and beyond. It will be a busy time filled with scholarship applications and campus tours. I have walked alongside friends with grown children and have watched, with an eye toward the future, their efforts to “aim and release” their kids into the world.
Communities In Schools is often described as a safety net that prevents young people from falling through the cracks. But I think of it also as a bowling alley bumper rail. Or a space shuttle launch crew. Communities In Schools site coordinators and volunteers – along with parents, teachers and the larger community – help keep students on a path to their goals… and a really great view of the world.
Congratulations, Talitha! And congratulations to all of the recent graduates in the Communities In Schools network we have been honored to share the journey with.
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