Students overcome hardships to earn diplomas

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Syllicia Cash, 19, walks across the stage inside the Schiff Conference and Banquet Center in Cincinnati. Cash received her high school diploma on Friday night.

"I never thought I would graduate," Cash said. "I've always seen other graduations, and I always say well, one day, I want to be like that."

It's a dream that helps ease some of the pain of her past.

"I had been in foster care, group homes, just different things of that nature," Cash said. "I had been sexually abused. I had just been through a lot of different things."

Cash grew up without hardly knowing either of her parents or her three siblings.

"I pretty much grew up without my brothers," said Cash. "I have two younger brothers and I have an older sister, and I pretty much grew up without them and my mom. So it was hard, but I always stayed in school. I have always been in church."

But she overcame all of that and is excited for what her future holds. Although it wasn't easy, Cash said her desire to get an education fueled her long journey. In six months, Cash has completed the "LifeSkills" program.

And in the room full of young people, Cash's hardships and desire aren't unique. Forty-five Tri-State students officially went from drop-outs to graduates, getting a second chance through LifeSkills. It's a public, alternative school. LifeSkills prides itself on helping young people achieve success by preparing them to enter the workforce or pursue higher education after graduation. The dropout recovery program uses a unique academic model which includes a customized academic plan, providing each student access to highly qualified teachers and support staff.

That's exactly why Mt. Auburn native Steve Stephenson said he enrolled.

"I feel like I'm on the top of the world right now," Stephenson said.

His positive attitude is a far cry from three years ago when the 19-year old voluntarily left his freshmen year at West High School.

"My grades was real bad," Stephenson said. "Mostly all F's."

A month later he enrolled at LifeSkills. School administrators said Stephenson is now receiving A's and B's.

"They gave me the courage to move on when I thought I couldn't," said Stephenson. "They did a lot of great things for me."

"Words can't express how I feel," said Stephenson's mother Shevonne Littlejohn. "I'm just so humbled right now and grateful."

His grandmother Dorothy Rogers agreed.

"He determined that he was going to graduate from high school," Rogers said. "I'm so glad that he got his diploma. He's my heart."

"Going through so much you get discouraged and you can never be sure of where your future is going to lead," said Cash. "Finally, I get my diploma! That's a big plus in my life!"

Cash plans to attend trade school and become either a fashion designer or chef.

Stephenson will enroll at Cincinnati State University next month. He hopes to start his own business once he graduates.


For more information on the program, please visit:

Copyright 2010 WXIX-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved.