ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Brittany Youngblood hopes her story will help motivate other young people who may feel discouraged about finishing high school.
Youngblood believes nothing is impossible, even if that means taking a non-traditional route to earn a diploma. Her tenacity and dedication has gained her respect by her teachers, peers and so many others.
Youngblood grew up in a single-parent household and finished high school at the age of 20. She told News 6 she fell behind in school after she needed to help raise her younger niece and nephew who moved in with her mother.
"Adjusting to a new family life proved stressful and confusing, again effecting my progression," Youngblood said. "This led me to doubt my abilities, as well as question my purpose."
She was initially home-schooled for several years because she felt the standard classwork in public school wasn't challenging enough.
Youngblood then ended up seeking available options to finish her high school diploma. After a break from school, she eventually met a guidance counselor with the Simon Youth Academy to create a plan of action.
The Simon Youth Academy is an alternative education program designed to help at-risk students earn their high school diploma. Offered through Orange County Public Schools, the program is a blend of school and work experience and some graduates will be eligible for scholarships to Valencia College.
Youngblood was one of those students who was awarded a scholarship to Valencia College after finishing her diploma.
"This plan was a map to graduation, which [listed] all of the classes I still had to complete, as well as the order and time frame for each," Youngblood said. "It was then up to me whether or not I wished to better myself by furthering my education."
Youngblood was in the program for a year and then had the opportunity to finish her high school education as well as receive professional career training and advice from experienced educators.
"This is your only chance," said Youngblood. "This will place you above those who drop out when trying to get your job or enroll in your college. No matter what you wish to achieve in life, finishing high school will defiantly help you reach it. This is the first step."
The 21-year-old now attends Valencia Community College on a full scholarship and is working part time at the American Girl store.
Youngblood wants to pursue a career in psychology and believes the need for college is imperative. She hopes others will also understand how getting a college degree can make them more competitive in the workplace.
"This educational experience puts you above other potential candidates, showing that a certain level of knowledge or expertise had been achieved," she said. "This leads to higher paying positions, more opportunities and additional practice."
Youngblood is forever grateful for her experiences with the Simon Youth Academy, giving her the needed boost to complete her diploma then enroll in college.
"We want every student to get their high school diploma, as that has exponential benefits to his or her future. However, we know that the paths toward that goal for some can be different than the traditional four years of high school," said Bill Tovine, principal of Alternative Education at the Simon Youth Academy. "Here at Orange County Public Schools we strive to provide many choices for students to complete their high school education in ways that make sense to them and fit with their experiences."
The Simon Foundation has given out more than $60,000 in student grant funding for students who want to pursue their post-secondary education.
To read more about the Simon Academy, click here.
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