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Student Spotlight: Christina O.

  • Diana Kanzler
  • April 20, 2023

Christina grew up in and out of the foster care system. When she turned 18 during her junior year of high school, she could no longer stay with her foster family and ended up being homeless. She no longer had a physical address and, therefore, could not attend school.

“I’m sure there was some sort of workaround, but I was an 18-year-old angry teenager,” Christina said.

Soon after dropping out of high school, her life took a dark turn. She continued down this path until she became pregnant with her first child and decided that she wanted to become better for her child. Christina checked herself into an addiction recovery program and has never looked back.

“I got clean, I stayed clean, and I moved far away from everybody I knew,” Christina said. “So that’s when I landed in South Carolina because I knew absolutely nobody. I was waitressing at a little bowling alley when I first moved down, and I met my husband.”

Christina and her husband have been together for ten years now and share a three-year-old son. They’ve done well for themselves, and Christina has built a successful career in sales. However, she’d always had a dream that she couldn’t accomplish without her high school diploma.

“When my husband and I go on date nights, we like to play a questionnaire game, just some fun stuff to keep things fresh,” Christina said. “He asked me, ‘If you could do any occupation in the world, what would it be?’ And I said, ‘I want to be an elementary school teacher.’”

Christina’s husband encouraged her to do it, despite her fears. She had her husband and son to take care of and needed to earn her high school diploma and college degree. It would be a long journey, but they decided that they would work together to help her dream become a reality.

Christina went back to high school through the South Carolina Workforce Diploma program and finished her graduation requirements in less than two months. After nearly 17 years away from high school, she finally graduated.

“When I saw my transcript and (realized) how close I was when I dropped out, I cried. Because I was so close!” Christina said. “I graduated and signed up for the University of Phoenix, and I started my class three days after everything got finalized with Graduation Alliance.”

She is studying elementary education and is almost done with her first college class. Completing high school online through the workforce diploma program helped put her in the mindset to continue learning online, and she appreciates the flexibility of online classes because they allow her to continue working full time and caring for her husband and son.

“I think the best piece of advice I can give is to stop being your own worst enemy. It’s scary. You don’t know if you can do it, but you can do it!” Christina said. “Take it one step at a time, and once you start, you’ll realize it’s not nearly as bad as you were making it out to be in your mind.”