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Great Story: Catalyst

It is a testament to the importance of AmeriCorps service that so many College Possible students have overcome enormous challenges to be where they are today. They have all come far and still have further yet to go, and it is a great privilege to support them as they continue to strive and move forward. I have several students who have overcome adversity, but I wanted to take the chance to talk about one of my students whom I admire very much.

Alyssa is bright, friendly and open, and has been an absolute joy to mentor. Meeting her, one wouldn’t guess that she has overcome more hardships than most people her age. Alyssa’s parents separated when she was young. Her father, who had custody of Alyssa and her sister, struggled with drug addiction. They lived in very poor conditions without money to pay for water, electricity, clothes, and other daily necessities. Alyssa shared a memory of when she was young, bathing in water collected from the leaky tap and heated on the stove before being tossed into the tub with the last bath’s water. To her, this was normal. When Alyssa was in elementary school, her dad left her and her sister with their mother, hoping to spare them from the consequences of his addiction. Things didn’t get better for the sisters there. Their mother suffered from alcoholism and could be verbally and physically abusive at times. Years later, her dad, then sober, took Alyssa and her sister back to live at his mother’s house. However, he didn’t stay sober for long. Sadly, he passed away last July.

Now, Alyssa lives with her grandmother and a cat that she adores. She loves her job and has made many friends at work and school. She wants to be an art teacher and is set up to follow that dream. It’s not surprising, then, that she told me she wouldn’t change anything about her life up to this point, even with all the hardships she has faced.

When I asked Alyssa if I had her permission to discuss the events of her life, she told me that she’s not afraid of sharing her story. That’s one of the things that’s so remarkable about Alyssa and many of the other students we serve. They don’t shy away from difficult things but take ownership of them. In this way, those hardships become a catalyst for their current — and future — success and happiness.

This Great Story was written by Aubrey Rawles, an AmeriCorps member for College Possible Omaha.

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