At eighteen years old, Sharon was working five jobs to support herself when she received a call saying that she would have to either attend school or drop out. In a bold move, she decided to quit working and concentrate on school.

Sharon entered her senior year of high school with painful memories of homelessness in her junior year. She recalls going to a teen shelter, changing schools often, sleeping in the snow during winter, days of hunger, and having to deal with challenges that face girls living in the streets. When she arrived at River’s Edge High School in Richland, Sharon was feeling hopeless about her future. However, all that changed when she started to make a plan for success with her teachers and Communities In Schools site coordinator, Paulina. Paulina connected Sharon with a mentor, Jordan, and Sharon began to feel that she was truly cared for. As she made progress on her goals, she started to see the return of her old joyful, hopeful self.

“Beforehand, my education was second priority and surviving was first. Then, I switched it around,” says Sharon. “I started thinking of the future once again and making plans and doing my homework.”

Since returning to high school, Sharon has accomplished a lot of things. She’s competed internationally in NASA’s Human Exploration Mars Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. She also graduated on time, with honors, as part of the River’s Edge High School Class of 2018. As a first-generation Guatemalan student, the eldest sibling in her family, and as a woman, graduation means a lot to Sharon. As she reflects on where she began, she is thankful for her teachers, mentor, site coordinator, and other caring adults who supported her along the road to success.

“Communities In Schools really helped me through my rough times in school,” says Sharon. “I was always motivated, given positive reinforcement and hope and belief I could accomplish my dreams no matter how big or small. Now I can’t wait to make myself proud.”