Vaiy was 14 years old when she entered Juvenile Rehabilitation. She attended school at Echo Glen Children's Center for two years, where she eventually took her GED test and passed on her first attempt. When Vaiy transferred to DCYF’s less restrictive Ridgeview Community Facility in 2019, she focused on finding a job in the community since she had already obtained her GED. However, finding employment proved to be difficult, due in part to the nature of her charges. For that reason, Vaiy began attending high school on-site.
One day, Vaiy asked to see her transcript. Though she already had her GED, she was curious about what it would take to also earn her high school diploma. Once she had the full view of her credits, she realized it was possible to graduate on time with her class of 2020, if she worked hard.
Part of what motivated Vaiy to earn her diploma was her desire to experience some of the traditional aspects of high school – like school dances, social life and the graduation ceremony –which she had seen other girls partake in while at Ridgeview. So, last January, Vaiy started attending school in the community and finally got to have a “normal” high school experience. She loved it! She enjoyed her classes and socializing with other students. She even attended a school dance.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Vaiy, along with countless others, had to conduct her studies online. Undeterred, she persevered and her teachers were so impressed with her progress and performance that they encouraged her to apply to college and fill out scholarship applications.
Vaiy found a program at a local college and won two scholarships. The Opportunity Knocks Scholarship program provides a full-ride, four-year scholarship, covering costs for her books, supplies and a computer. If Vaiy ever decides to transfer schools, the scholarship will go with her. For this scholarship, she has two mentors to help her navigate college – her teacher from Ridgeview and one of her teachers from high school. Vaiy also received close to $800 from the Lila Miller Scholarship Fund.
In June, on the very day of Vaiy's high school graduation party, she secured a job at a restaurant. And as her college registration date approached, she decided to enroll in classes about criminal justice, criminology and criminal evidence.
Her transition to college has been a little bumpy, but she is getting the hang of online college and is looking forward to attending classes in person when it is safe to do so.