Chelsea was beginning to look like a dropout statistic.
By the time she was in ninth grade, her relationship with her mom was strained. Her dad wasn’t around. Her grades were terrible. At the end of each day she wasn’t entirely sure where she’d be staying that night. Many days, she just skipped school.
Nothing at school was working, and the best idea she could come up with was to transfer to Parchment Schools — for no better reason than she had a cousin who was doing okay there.
Things didn’t get much better on the home front; she found herself staying at as many as three different places. But things did get significantly better when she made her first friend at Parchment High School, guidance counselor Becky Edds.
Like counselors throughout Kalamazoo County, Edds is plugged in to anever-improving network of individuals and organizations on the lookout for kids who just can’t seem to catch a break.
"Chelsea is a bright kid," says Edds. "But the day-to-day challenges were just incredibly daunting."
Edds turned Chelsea on to Education ReConnection through Youth Opportunities Unlimited. The extra support, including finding a volunteer mentor, Alyssa Reed, to drive Chelsea to school — from wherever she was living — freed up Chelsea’s mind to study more. As her grades improved, Chelsea talked with Colin Andrews at YOU about her options.
As it turns out, because of her transiency, Chelsea’s eligibility for a state-funded assistance program for college was "invisible" to the system. Enter the newly developed Kalamazoo Area College Access Network and Brenda Pickett, who discovered Chelsea’s eligibility and provided her with the information and support she needed to complete the scholarship process.
"We’re getting dialed in on how to help students," says Pickett, whose organization takes part in the National Student Clearinghouse, and more importantly interacts with other nonprofit, educational and governmental systems available throughout the community and the state.
As Chelsea graduates from Parchment High School this spring and accepts her scholarship to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, she has gone out of her way to express her appreciation to those who have helped her. She has traced much of the support back to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation serves as a community clearinghouse for college scholarships and supports both Education ReConnection and KACAN.
"It’s not that kids can’t fall through the cracks," says Edds, who has more than 300 students assigned to her. "But the broad range of scholarships offered by the Community Foundation and their knowledge of the process speak volumes to what this community can do for kids."
With Andrews’ help, Chelsea finished her income taxes, and she’s polishing her résumé with the promotion she just got at her part-time job.
"I love the people who helped me," says Chelsea. "And I want to help others the way they helped me."
Chelsea plans to attend KVCC for two years and transfer to a four-year school, probably Western Michigan University, to pursue a degree in sociology and a career in doing the things that others have done for her.