A Simple Mistake That Changed My Life

By United Way of King County, on August 2, 2019 | In Helping Students Graduate, Success Stories

At first-blush, E.D.’s story doesn’t make you think ‘high school dropout’. He’s lived in a two-parent home, in the same neighborhood, since kindergarten, earned good grades, took college-prep classes—and had at least one cousin who’d earned a full-ride scholarship to a four-year college.

Yet, like so many students in King County, E.D. left high school in the 10th grade.

A second look at E.D.’s story reveals some of the hurdles he’s faced. His parents, both in their 40s at the time, moved here from a third world country when he was 6 months old. Their entire village, including their family home, had been burned to the ground.

As E.D. grew up, the park less than a block away from his home in Tukwila became a hub for gang activity. Dad was a truck driver and was away from home for long stretches, which took a toll on the family as E.D. became older. His mom struggled to enforce the rules and counteract the negative influences on E.D. in his neighborhood.

In middle school, marijuana was all too accessible and he began smoking weed in sixth grade. Come high school, one of his best friends passed away and his mom was diagnosed with cancer. Soon, hanging out with friends and family seemed more important than going to class. He began lying to his parents about missing school. By his second year of high school, E.D. was not on track to graduate and left school.

Soon after, E.D. was in a car accident that changed his perspective. E.D. reflects, “If I hadn’t crashed my car, I wouldn’t have woken up and realized how quickly life can be taken away.”

One teacher of E.D.’s had talked to him often about Career Link, a United Way of King County Reconnecting Youth partner. After the accident, he sought out the program and quickly enrolled. The 1:1 support and flexibility was exactly what he needed.

The best thing about being back on track is that I don’t need to lie to my parents.

This June, 19-year-old E.D. walked with his graduating class, and will fully earn his diploma when he completes just one more course. He is excited about college and has his heart sent on becoming an automotive technician. “I’m excited about creating my future and I’m thankful I found Career Link and United Way.”

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 E.D.’s case, overcoming multiple hurdles. 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 navigating next steps, whether those steps lead to trade school, community college or university.


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