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Stacking Up Success

Growing up, Christel House, and life after graduation—2014 Christel House Academy grad, Chantelle, shares her experience

The Christel House College & Careers Program bridges the gap between high school and adult life, offering support and guidance during these critical transition years. We continue advising graduates for up to five years after they leave our school to keep them on track, inspired and successful.

2014 Christel House graduate, Chantelle, has settled into her dorm room at Indiana State University and is working toward her chosen major: Social Work. Her tuition was covered by scholarships, her room is furnished and her books are purchased. It is unlikely that any of this would have happened without the Christel House College & Careers Program.

Chantelle’s College & Careers Program coordinator and counselor continue to guide her today. In this interview, Chantelle shares her inspirational story.

Q. When did you start attending Christel House?
My sophomore year. My freshman year, I went to Fountain Square Academy, another charter school. I was nearly failing math, and the teacher wasn’t helpful. My mom said, “Go to Christel House!” It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Q. What’s special about Christel House?
Christel House is a smaller school. It’s like a family. The people there really care. They actually look you in the eye—they want to help.

Christel House changed who I was—and who I thought I could be.

Q. Tell us more about the people at Christel House who inspired you.
At the beginning of my junior year, I was really struggling. One of my counselors came to me and said, “You’re missing a lot of school.” I’m not big at opening up to people. But she stuck with it. She didn’t know anything about me, but she just walked up to me and genuinely showed she cared. A lot of people ask you if you’re OK. She went above and beyond. And she didn’t do that just for me. She helps other people too. I love talking to her. I still talk to her now.

Q. Can you share more about that time of your life?
My junior year, my mom moved out of the house we’d been living in for five years. We rented an apartment, and it wasn’t long before we got evicted. It was confusing. My family wasn’t always able to be supportive, so I had to take on a lot of financial responsibilities, like paying my taxes, making sure my bills were paid, and even having a place to stay. Working 30 to 40 hours a week when you’re a full-time student is a big burden on your shoulders.

My senior year, my grandma passed away. It hit me hard. Depression set in. I stayed on the couch and stopped eating. That led to school attendance issues and my grades falling.

Q. How did you get past that situation?
My counselor and Christel House staff helped me in school by keeping me on track—mentally focused—and reminding me that graduation wasn’t that far away. They helped me figure out how to pay for school and get scholarships. They pushed me to do better.

I realized that things would stay like they were if I didn’t keep going to school. That was my motivation. In college, I’d have a dorm room and a place to stay at night. Without their support, I would have dropped out.

Q. How does Christel House continue to support you?
As a Christel House grad, I am part of the College & Careers Program and it offers me a lot of resources I can use after graduation and going into college. It is someplace I can turn if I have financial or academic questions. It’s a fall back if I need some kind of help. If I really need something, I know I can go to my College & Careers coordinator or my counselor. I still talk to them all the time!

Christel House genuinely cares about their students and their graduates. They go the extra mile to make sure we are persevering in what we want to do with our lives. They’re not just giving up no matter what the road blocks may be. Other schools just get you through high school and let you go on your own. That’s when a lot of people fall off - right after graduation. They give up because they don’t have that help.

Without the College & Careers Program, I would have a lot more things on my shoulders to worry about. It’s such a good resource to have a program and people like that in your life after high school.

Q. What was it like getting ready for college?
It was a long wait. I didn’t have anything coming in to college, and the College & Careers Program helped me get the things I needed. I got to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and pick up bedding—a comforter, pillows, sheets, and a mattress pad—a desk lamp, a shower caddy, flip flops, a trash can, laundry detergent—all the basics. My counselor even drove me to college on move-in day because I didn’t have transportation.

Q. Name one thing you love about college life.
My dorm room. It was one of my biggest excitements. It’s home. I have my own bed. I can hang up pictures of my boyfriend—we’ve been together for three years—and pictures my grandma gave me. I have a great roommate too. Her name is Hannah. We share everything, and we just started hanging up some posters. I’m lucky.

Q. Tell us about your Teens for Jeans project.
I went to a website called dosomething.org and I saw a project called Teens for Jeans. It’s all about donating jeans to help homeless teens—I could relate to that. It’s really simple: You collect jeans and give them to the nearest Aeropostale store. I tried to get a group involved, but it didn’t take off, so I ended up doing it myself. I drove around all winter break collecting jeans. I ended up donating 195 pairs.

Q. What are your goals for the future?
After I get my degree, I’d like to get my masters in social work. I’d like to be a school counselor. I want to help out where it starts—in school. My experiences have taught me that a lot of problems begin in school, and sometimes there’s nobody there to help you through those things. I want to be that person.

Q. What advice would you give other students like you?
Never give up. If you give up, you are losing everything that could be you in the future. Go for it! Don’t stop.

The College & Careers Program Works!
1,025—Students in the College & Careers Program around the world
$370,000—Total cost to support Christel House graduates in the College & Careers Program. Funds offset costs for College & Careers Program coordinators, food, transportation, textbooks and emergencies.
93%—Graduates working, studying or both

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