Sheer determination and support proved to be the pivotal components behind the academic and personal success of graduating senior Akieba Sims, a BeREAL* youth in New Orleans. In May, like multitudes of seniors everywhere, Akieba received her high school diploma. While this might not qualify as earth-shattering news, it is, in fact, quite remarkable.
Just one year ago, Akieba was told by school advisors that going back to high school wasn’t the best plan and was advised to get a GED. She refused to take that route. It was her dream to attend classes again and get a regular high school diploma.
A period of homelessness and the birth of her son in November 2010 made Akieba’s goal of graduating seem even less attainable. But she was not alone. Her friends, the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), and her team at BeREAL were all behind her. Akieba’s DCFS caseworker helped her find a high school willing to take her, and BeREAL provided a Transition Coach, volunteer mentor, and a Gap Team tutor, along with direct funding support for bus passes, clothing, groceries, fixing her laptop, and graduation fees.
With a determined focus on beating the odds, Akieba proved the doubters wrong. Not only did she graduate with the class on May 19th, but she received three awards at Senior Awards Night! These included top honors in Sociology and Environmental Science, and a Leadership Scholarship from Delgado Community College. Akieba, now 20, is making plans to attend Delgado in the fall. Everyone at BeREAL is so proud of her!
* BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a project of Lutheran Social Services in collaboration with the Louisiana Dept. of Children & Family Services, provides transition services for youth ages 13-25 aging out of Louisiana’s foster care system, through training, support, and mentoring programs.