Karen has been through much in her life. Her father abused her family, which caused her mother to become too sick to take care of the kids. Child Protective Services starting Karen and her siblings on a roller coaster of foster care when she was one year old. Before she started grade school Karen’s parents separated, and her mother was sent to a women’s center. Karen and her siblings were entrusted to her father’s care, where they were physically and sexually abused.
When Karen’s mother left the women’s home, Karen and her siblings went to live with her and her step-father. Soon, her step-father began using drugs and abusing them as well. Her mother separated from him, but Karen began hanging out with the wrong crowds, stealing and doing drugs. She was arrested for the first time in second grade. Before she reached the seventh grade she had a miscarriage and had been arrested at least 5 times. Karen got pregnant at 15 and dropped out of high school.
Karen’s life started to turn around when she met someone from Goodwill’s Ola I Ka Hana program. She began the C-Based program to get her high school diploma, and with Goodwill’s help, got a full time job so she could take care of her son while she went to school.
It wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it. Karen graduated in September of 2003 as valedictorian of her class. When she started making the right choices, good things happened. She stopped doing drugs and getting into trouble, became a mother, graduated from high school and had money to support her family.
Graduating high school was a big goal, but Karen is just getting started. She passed CPR training and care-giver classes and will soon be taking the Certified Nurses Aid exam and aspires to a nursing career. Karen knows that the future will not be easy, but she doesn’t want her son to go through everything she went through.
Karen says, “I want to help other kids out there like me who are hurting and in trouble too. I want them to know that they can choose to have a good life. Goodwill helped me to see that I can take care of myself and my family by making good decisions, setting goals for myself, and working hard to accomplish them.”
Karen’s Valedictorian Speech
First, I’d like to thank God for all he has done. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would be here right now. My being valedictorian doesn’t make me any different from anyone else, but I am honored to represent my classmates this evening. My classmates and I have all come a very long way. From ditching school, to getting arrested, from drugs, to violence, sex and teen pregnancies, theft, family and money problems, even through all of that, we still made it.
As many of you know, we all dropped out of high school, something we students wish we hadn’t done. [The C-based program] took a lot of time, effort, and hard work. I am proud of myself and my classmates. My fellow classmates and I would like to thank our families, friends, teachers and counselors of Ola I Ka Hana and McKinley, and everyone who make it possible for us to have this second chance.
I would like to encourage all of the teens and students who are here to stay in school, listen to your parents, and the people who care about you. They know what they are talking about. Go to college, stay away from drugs and the people out there that you know will get you in trouble. Remember your education is an important part of life that will help make things a whole lot easier for your future.
Again, I would like to say thank you to my classmates, friends, my family, Tony and his family, and to Kekoa, my son and my biggest encouragement. I love you all very much. Thank you to Mr. Parola, counselors of Ola I Ka Hana and McKinley and everyone here for your support of my classmates and I. Mahalo… God Bless, and take care.