D2 Center

Shayla’s Story: I Couldn’t Have Done This Without You

by | Feb 20, 2020 | General, Student Stories

Every D2 Center student is different, but one common thread we see is their need for individualized help navigating barriers blocking their engagement in school. Sometimes, these barriers seem to multiply as time goes on. Here on the blog, we’ll be sharing student stories to give our readers an idea of how these factors can complicate students’ efforts to reengage in school and earn their high school diploma. This is Shayla’s story, which illustrates the at-times endless challenges as well as the help a D2 Center YAN can provide.

Shayla’s Story: I Couldn’t Have Done This Without You

Shayla dropped out of high school in the spring of her senior year still needing 16 credits. After repeatedly calling every contact number she had for Shayla, Reengagement Specialist / Youth Academic Navigator (YAN) Kelsey Hansen made a home visit. She had one goal in mind: to get Shayla re-enrolled in school in August so she could graduate. Leaving her business card with Shayla’s mother’s boyfriend, Kelsey hoped she could finally reconnect with her. Thankfully, Shayla reached out and the two agreed to meet.

Shayla opened up to Kelsey right away. Since dropping out of high school, she experienced life-changing challenges. She made new friends, but they turned out to be the wrong kind. She had been incarcerated, and had gotten pregnant. Her future was uncertain, and she didn’t have the family support necessary to help her rise above the challenges.

Kelsey knew what she needed to do. Shayla needed a positive support system to finish school, so Kelsey connected her with the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaboratives Teen and Young Parent Program. In the program, Shayla had access to the resources she needed most for herself and her baby. She was assigned a parent coach and was set up to receive proper pre- and post-natal care.

Kelsey also helped Shayla with re-enrolling in school. She joined the Omaha Public Schools Independent Studies Program (ISP), but other issues began to surface. She had her baby and soon had struggles with childcare, finding employment, and transportation. Although she enrolled in ISP again the following year, more problems appeared, this time including depression and housing instability.

After another unsuccessful attempt at ISP, Shayla agreed to apply to the D2 Center program. She was accepted, and naturally, Kelsey became her Youth Academic Navigator. After months of making little progress in school, things began to turn around for her.

Shayla found reliable childcare, got a second part-time job, and was able to afford a car. As a new school year was about to begin, she knew, because of her age (and reminders from Kelsey), that this school year would be her last chance to earn her diploma. Kelsey stayed in close contact with her during the year, providing support and encouragement as Shayla began to finally earn some credits through the ISP and Accelere programs.

By summer, Shayla had made progress, but still needed credits. She began experiencing obstacles again with unreliable childcare and transportation. But Kelsey and the D2 Center were there to ensure those obstacles didn’t interfere with Shayla’s goal to graduate. During this final push to complete school, Kelsey kept close contact with Shayla and her teachers. She made sure Shayla was in the right classes, was making progress and doing everything she could to earn credits. As the last summer class session at Accelere was winding down in July, Shayla was on track to finish on time, and her seven-year journey to earn a high school diploma was nearly over.

Shayla’s commencement ceremony was held in a packed auditorium in July. Dr. Shari Koch, program director at Accelere, was so impressed with Shayla’s unique story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles that she asked Shayla to deliver her inspirational story in a commencement speech.

Shayla recounted her story to the crowded auditorium full of graduating seniors and their family members. At times, she fought back tears as she told the crowd about the continued obstacles that almost prevented her from succeeding. As she thanked the staff at Accelere, Kelsey, and the D2 Center, she said, “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

– Shayla’s name has been changed to protect her privacy. –

About Carolyn

Carolyn Miller is one of the directors of the D2 Center. She is a graduate of Omaha Northwest High School and the University of Iowa. Carolyn has been with the D2 Center since 2010.