Like many Gateway to College graduates, Savannah had to overcome immense personal challenges on her road to graduation.
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Savannah’s parents had serious substance abuse issues—they didn’t protect Savannah and her younger siblings from their lifestyle. She recalls her house being disgusting, never having enough food, the water being turned off, and strange people coming and going. “My parents and uncles were all drug addicts,” said Savannah. “The opiates destroyed their brains. My father couldn’t even hold a conversation.” Savannah quickly became the primary caregiver for her younger siblings, and for her parents.
In high school, Savannah had a hard time making friends. She was teased and bullied because of her family’s situation. She skipped classes and though she made it to her senior year, she didn’t have enough credits to graduate. Her GPA was too low and she was lacking in the necessary credits to be accepted in other programs.
Facing limited options, Savannah then realized she had to make a choice. “Something clicked. I didn’t want to be like my parents.”
In the winter of 2013, she found her way to Gateway to College at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.
“Gateway is different because I could be more mature and independent. Being in the college setting allows you to meet different people. They were focused on my education, not what I was doing (outside the classroom),” said Savannah. In Gateway mentor Ruth Schindler, Savannah found the caring personal supports she previously lacked. “Ms. Ruth and I are very close. I don’t have many people in my life for that. She is someone who listens and helps with resources.”
In spring 2015, Savannah earned her full high school diploma through Gateway to College and will graduate in the fall with her Associate of Arts degree in Respiratory Care. Her degree will enable her to support her siblings before she pursues further education, likely in health care administration.
She continues to take stock in the challenging lessons she’s had to learn at such a young age. “We have a choice,” she says. “We can either become a product of our environment, or we can learn and grow from it.”
We honor Savannah’s difficult journey to graduation and celebrate her grit and tenacity in succeeding.
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