Alumna Profile: Leah

We’ve seen a lot of Leah* recently. She’s been in the office once a week. Working. During the last month, we’ve been all about Reach’s #AlwaysThere campaign. But, it’s important that you know why. Why is it important that we’re always there?

*Leah is not her real name.

Leah reached out to us a couple months ago. She had recently graduated from Ballou – one of the many who likely wouldn’t have made it based on her attendance. She was a tutor for three years and Lead Tutor for one. She co-authored a book.

She was also one of five kids in her family. Three are still alive. Mom was, understandably, depressed. Clinically. Two younger siblings remained. Leah wanted something better for them.

And, because her mom was struggling, it was on her. She got them to school, fed them, clothed them, loved them…and that was hard. It cost her days of school last year and days of work this year. Too many days of work, so she ended up out of work. And, we know supporting kids costs money…

At first, she asked us for some financial help. We have a small budget for that. But then, she made it clear that she preferred to work for money. She started coming into the office once a week. She asked, “What can I do?” She did book inventories, addressed envelopes, sold books, wrote thank you notes, and more. She earned money. She fed her siblings. Eventually, she found a better full-time job. She still showed up at Reach’s office once a week.

And, during it all, she knew that her younger siblings weren’t thriving. She knew her mom wasn’t doing right by them. She knew this at 19. She knew she couldn’t afford to support them alone. She knew this at 19. She had a difficult conversation with her mother and facilitated her siblings’ transition to her aunt’s house. She did this at 19.

When this relocation required a new daycare for her youngest sister, she put down the deposit using her own funds. She did this at 19.

Reach is about being #AlwaysThere for the young people we serve. That’s important because it allows teens to thrive…even if only eventually. Leah knows she can always lean on us. She has. She feels guilty about it. She shouldn’t.

But, because we’re always there, she knows that she can be too. She can focus on her siblings. She can ensure they stay out of trouble, stay in school, and feel loved. She’s filling the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy for her siblings in a way that wasn’t done for her.

This is all part of the education of an adolescent.

Leah is a hero. She’s still focused on her future – it’s mortuary science…that’s exciting, even if you think it’s gross – and we remain confident she’ll make it happen. But, in the moment, she had to be more focused on what her siblings needed. And, when they weren’t getting it, she gave it to them. On her own.

Life is complex. We, as a society, often fail. Leah is trying to succeed anyway.


Posted in #AlwaysThere, Meet Our Tutors |
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