Like so many other high school students in the Seattle area in late spring, Marité was all smiles after receiving her diploma. The excitement of what’s next. The relief of having a high school credential in hand. She always knew the day would come. Wearing cap and gown, receiving her diploma on stage.
But the path she took to get her diploma? She never imagined such a complicated journey.
It Started Before High School
Rewind to a few years ago when Marité endured a painful time that triggered severe anxiety and depression.
“When I started middle school, I didn’t really fit in and had trouble making friends. I thought it was bad, but things got much worse: I experienced bullying that forced me to miss a lot of 8th grade. I actually only made it 30% of the time, which caused me to fail my classes.”
Marite’s mom, a single parent who sometimes worked as a translator and a house cleaner to provide for her family, enrolled Marite’ in an alternative school.
“I was looking forward to a new learning environment, but the school’s project-based learning style wasn’t a good fit for me. I also struggled with taking multiple buses to get to the school. My anxiety returned and worsened.”
Falling further behind, Marité learned in 11th grade that she only had four credits—only a fourth of the number necessary to graduate.
“The thought that I would need to attend high school for another 3 or 4 years filled me with dread. I thought, ‘Will I be 21 and still in high school?’”
14,000 young people in King County leave high school without graduating
14,000 unique stories why their educational route detours—homelessness, family disagreements over sexual orientation, teen parenting. Or in Marité’s case, bullying and mental health challenges. Without a high school diploma or GED, their chances at a good-paying job are bleak and their talents aren’t realized in our community. They lose out and so do we.
That’s why United Way created Reconnecting Youth, a program to get young people reconnected to their education through coaching, mentoring and career navigation. It’s all about helping students graduate and figure out next steps, whether those steps lead to trade school, community college or university.
United Way’s effectiveness in supporting high school students and young adults gets a spotlight on recent news.Watch the Story
In 2016, Marité enrolled in Career Link, one of 16 United Way Reconnecting Youth partners in King County. Through personalized support from staff and teachers, she completed the classes she needed to graduate high school.
When Marité donned her cap and gown on graduation night, she came away with more than a diploma. She gained a better sense of self and all she had accomplished. She also received an honor bigger than she’d ever imagined: the 2018 Student of the Year award with a $3,500 scholarship, which she’s putting to good use at South Seattle College.
While focused on her college studies and imagining a career combining fashion with business, Marité reflected on her educational journey.
“I’m so grateful to United Way and Career Link for helping me find the right place in which to succeed.”