Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services
Article

Adelphoi Helps Guide Youth on a Path of Success

A young girl’s story of perseverance through mental health struggles and her eventual success at a Charter School program.

by Megan Keys, Communications Relationship Manager, Adelphoi

Frustrated, and struggling with her mental health, 12-year-old Aayla felt like she had nobody on her side. Feeling lost in a public school, her family made the decision to enroll her into Adelphoi’s Partial program. After a year, and doing well, she returned to her original middle school, but started to fall back into the same patterns and began to struggle again.

With that struggle came a recommendation to attend the Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School, but she was initially hesitant. She had already failed a grade and was behind. Her family knew that something needed to change, so Aayla enrolled in the Charter School hoping that this would be the change that she needed. It turned out that it was exactly what Aayla needed.

“The Charter School gave me the structure that had been missing,” said Aayla. “The teachers understood that I wanted to do better, but just needed a little bit of guidance and structure. They didn’t give up on me.”

Aayla says that she remembers her teachers telling her “you can do this.” She worked daily to learn coping skills that she still uses today. She also worked to recover academic credits and was able to graduate on time.

One of the biggest things that I was able to realize while at the Charter School was that I have potential and I can achieve my goals. I also have a lot more self-worth. My past does not define me,” expressed Aayla.

Since graduating from the Charter School in 2017, Aayla attended the Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) with the help of the Adelphoi Promise and graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts in May. The Adelphoi Promise is financial aid and support for students who successfully complete an Adelphoi program. It provides up to 2 years of tuition at one of ten affiliate community colleges in Pennsylvania.

Aayla also was awarded a full-tuition scholarship for Indiana University of PA where she will attend in the fall to study digital design. Her dream is to be a freelance animator, and she is excited about the opportunities that she will have.

“I was dumbfounded, surprised and very grateful – almost a sense of relief,” said Aayla, describing her feelings when she found out about the scholarship. “Now I can focus on getting a job and not worry about paying back school loans.”

Aayla was awarded the scholarship from the All-USA/All-PA Community College Academic Team which is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group, Phi Theta Kappa, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Coca Cola Foundation. It is awarded to students who excel academically, demonstrate intellectual rigor in their course of study, show academic growth and potential, and use their two-year college education to better themselves, their schools, and their communities.

Aayla represented Westmoreland County Community College for the All-Pennsylvania Academic Team awards and was also named WCCC Outstanding Student of the Year.

Aayla was nominated for the All-PA Academic Team by Lynna Thomas, Special Populations Counselor at Westmoreland County Community College. Lynna works as a mentor to the Adelphoi Promise students who attend WCCC.

“Aayla is a student that will make the most of every opportunity that is provided to her, and she is so worthy of this honor. I have looked forward to nominating her for this award for quite some time now; she has always been a student that came to mind when I thought about this academic team. She represents all that is great about ambition, growth, opportunity and the community college experience.  I am so proud of her, and humbled to have been a part of her journey,” expressed Lynna.

Aayla is excited about her future and credits her family, especially her mom and grandfather, her best friend, the staff of WCCC, and the Adelphoi Charter School for supporting her. “They are always my cheerleaders.”