Rising Above Circumstances
Judging by statistics alone, Kami Hunt should have dropped out of school long ago. Instead, she graduated early and is now in college.
The serious obstacles Kami Hunt faced – including homelessness and substance abuse – are among the leading risk factors for dropout and reason enough for any young person to falter or lose hope altogether.
To hear Kami tell it, “I was going to be a dropout. And that’s not who I am.” She realized she couldn’t face her challenges alone, and needed support and guidance if she was going to fulfill her dream of going to college to study criminal justice. Several of Kami’s friends attended the Communities In Schools of Douglas County Performance Learning Center® (PLC) in Douglasville, Ga., and Kami saw how the PLC helped them get back on track and even graduate early.
At 17, Kami realized she needed to turn her life around and that the Douglas County PLC could help her do it. The decision wasn’t easy, and Kami had to convince her parents that attending a PLC was the right thing to do. “They didn’t understand why I wanted to leave my school and friends, but they understood how important graduating was to me, so whatever that took they supported,” she said. Kami applied to the PLC in May 2008 and started classes in August of that year.
Kami’s “leading light” at the PLC was her academic coordinator, Donita Cullen. Cullen had been introduced to Communities In Schools as a teacher in Douglas County, and one of her mentors was Mitzi Teal, Communities In Schools of Douglas County executive director.
Cullen said she believes that daily contact and love are the keys to unlocking students’ potential, and she put that into practice with Kami. The two met every day and started building a plan – looking at where Kami wanted to be and what she needed to get there. “Over time I developed a special relationship with Kami and was able to watch her transform from a teenager with a lot of challenges into a beautiful young lady.” In addition to being Kami’s sounding board, Cullen set out to obtain whatever services were needed to keep Kami in school and focused on learning.
First, she connected Kami to Naomi Black, a probation officer in Douglas County who was able to provide guidance and a path toward a career in law enforcement. Kami shadowed Black during her duties and witnessed the commitment and skills that were required.
Cullen also coordinated a number of services that helped Kami deal with the challenges she faced in her personal life. During her time at the PLC, Kami moved away from home, and Communities In Schools worked with a local organization to help her find housing. Through Communities In Schools, Kami also received substance abuse counseling, assistance with transportation to and from school, and food, so she wouldn’t need to worry about proper nutrition.
While Kami had passed the Georgia High School Graduation Tests before she enrolled at Douglas, at the PLC she prepped every morning with Cullen for the Compass exam – required for entrance to technical colleges – and a “work ready” test administered by the Douglas County PLC to earn a certificate in workplace skills.
The assistance Kami received helped ignite the determination she already had to create a successful future. “I felt loved at Douglas County PLC. They don’t judge you for what you look like or where you come from. They care about you and what they can do to help you succeed,” she said.
Kami graduated from the Douglas PLC in June 2009 and also started attending classes at West Central Technical College that same month. She is committed to achieving her goal of becoming a police officer after graduation. She also believes it is important to pass on what she has learned and plans to remain involved with Douglas County PLC and its students.
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