A Penn Foster Success Story: From Homelessness to All-Star Student

By definition, Nikkiya Gentry was a "typical" high school dropout. She didn't have a diploma and had no high school credits. But if you delve deeper into Nikkiya's inspirational story, you discover she was far from any of the stereotypes some people hold about high school dropouts.

Leaving School

Homeless at age 11, Nikkiya lived on the streets, raised herself and fought for survival. School wasn't the goal for Nikkiya while growing up-staying alive was. By age 12, she felt she had no choice but to leave school. Her personal struggles prevented her from staying focused and committed in the traditional school system. At times she slept on park benches, and often went without adequate rest and basic necessities. Although she eventually spent time jumping from one alternative adult education school to another, no school stuck.

A Positive Change on the Horizon

Just as she moved in with her cousin and life started to get back on track, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and given six months to live. But she didn't give up. With such despairing news, Nikkiya became determined to do something better and positive. She didn't want to be like her past and knew she needed to get her high school diploma.

Opportunity Knocks

At one point a Penn Foster commercial caught Nikkiya's attention, but she didn't have the financial resources to pursue a Penn Foster education. A couple of years later she saw a commercial for Dorsey Schools in Detroit, Michigan and decided she wanted to enroll and work towards being a chef. She approached Dorsey Schools to begin the application process, and was turned away because she lacked a high school diploma or GED.

Not long after, Dorsey Schools began offering a high school completion program through their partnership with Penn Foster High School. They reached out to Nikkiya to see if she would be interested in getting her high school diploma, and she jumped at the chance to not only earn her high school diploma to better improve her opportunities and ability to enroll in a post-secondary institution.

Achieving Success

Focused and committed, Nikkaya enrolled in the Penn Foster High School Completion program, completed it and earned her high school diploma. Receiving her cap and gown and matriculating into Dorsey were her great achievements. The program gave Nikkiya the opportunity to graduate high school and fulfill her dreams of becoming a chef. The High School Completion program helped grow her confidence and transformed her into a role model who didn't let a past of unfortunate circumstances dictate her future.

Nikkiya is now a culinary arts student at Dorsey School, and serves as a student ambassador providing mentoring and motivation to her fellow students. She is currently completing her externship at the Marriott in downtown Detroit, and she is on track to graduate from Dorsey this month. She was recently awarded a scholarship from Dorsey based on her outstanding academic performance.

Changing The Path of Non-completers

Driven, smart and a hard worker, Nikkiya was determined to pursue education and a career, but the lack of a high school diploma was a barrier. Unfortunately this is a common theme with high school non-completers. Toxic life circumstances prevent these students from graduating high school, and career schools turn potential students away because of this lacking qualification.

Schools like Dorsey, however, are providing an on-ramp to higher education. This type of partnership opens doors for students who have potential, intellect and ambition-they just need the opportunity of a High School Completion program to make a positive change and take the first step.

Nikkiya's experience with Penn Foster and Dorsey Schools illustrates how successful these programs can be. Nikkiya recently attended the 2014 ACICS Annual Conference in New Orleans and shared her inspiring story as a co-host for a Penn Foster panel discussion with Dorsey Schools. Her story is proof that a former dropout can indeed not only turn it all around, but achieve success she once never thought possible.

Watch this short video to hear Nikkiya discuss what a second chance meant to her:

Watch Video