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Rising to Great Heights

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With the support of CIS, our students stay in school, graduate and go on to bright futures. They all have a story about their journey to who they are today. Alumna Jessica shares hers.

At 16, my world started to fall apart.

I had been living with a friend, Tia, and her family for two years after my mom and I had a falling out. I thought that living separately from her would help our tense relationship.

My junior year I was misdiagnosed with lupus and the treatment left me bedridden most of the time.

My high school was unwilling to make allowances for my absences or let me learn from home. The school administration gave me an ultimatum: start attending classes regularly to barely pass for the semester or drop out.

I chose the latter, considering that I could barely get out of bed without assistance due to pain from treatments and medicine I did not need.

Although I had always been a good student, after unenrolling I began to care less about my studies and future. Tia continued to encourage me and stayed optimistic that this was not the end for me. She would constantly tell me, "You'll go back your senior year, catch up and graduate, even if I have to drag you into the school every day."

Tia felt uneasy about my journey to "getting better" that my doctor started me on and felt a second opinion was necessary. A second doctor didn’t accept the diagnosis and took me off the medication and quit treatment. The first month was brutal, but then, I recovered and showed no signs of disease or illness of any kind.

Deciding it was time for a fresh start, Tia, myself and the rest of our family moved to Las Vegas. I enrolled at Chaparral High School.

The assistant principal, after hearing our story, thought we should meet the Communities In Schools site coordinators, Ivana Sarajlic, Jennifer Lopardo and Velvette Williams

I remember feeling such love from them the moment we met – they restored my faith in humanity. They helped my family with everything they could as we settled into our new lives in a new city. They assured me that re-enrolling in school was the right choice and that they would do everything they could to help me graduate.

My goal was to graduate on time. I was technically a senior, but I was credit deficient and needed to pass four standardized, state-mandated tests to graduate. I avoided after-school activities, social outings and focused on making up classes. In the spring of 2014, I graduated with my class.

Despite my hard work, my GPA wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Dropping out had impacted it heavily. Still, I applied to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and by chance met the head of admissions during a CIS event. He was sure I would get in – and I did.

I am working towards graduating in spring 2019 with my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in marriage and family therapy. I also want to get my master’s degree in couples and family therapy.

Recently, I became one of the legal guardians of a child with my two best friends. He is the light of my life; he gave me new purpose. My mother is back in my life as well. I look back and can understand what my mother was going through and why she and I had such a hard time understanding each other. I regret nothing, no matter how painful, since it has brought me to greater heights.

Communities In Schools changed my life. If I hadn’t moved to Las Vegas, hadn’t met, been encouraged and loved by them, it would’ve been a harder journey for me to get here.

 And here seems like a good place to be. 

- January 2019

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