"I want people to see, from my point of view, that yes, being homeless is hard. Life is hard, but if you keep your head up high, you can achieve anything," Ann Marie Bottorff, 21, told Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS) St. Johnsbury Center Manager Jennifer Adams.
Ann graduated in December 2012 after moving to Vermont eight months ago from Rhode Island. She first walked into the St. Johnsbury Learning Center in July 2012, seeking her dream of a high school diploma.
Ann has been supporting herself since high school and in 2010 became homeless. "At first, I was hard on myself. I had to face difficult tasks every day."
There are several difficult things about being homeless, according to Ann. The lack of money for food, shelter and warm clothing is a constant worry, forcing her to depend on agencies for necessities. Community centers, the library, coffee shops and NEKLS all became important to Ann's success because she struggled to find warm places to stay during cold winter days, as shelters only open at night.
Facing the many obstacles thrown in her path has taught Ann that she can and will overcome anything. Through her experiences she decided it was important to have a different life. In order to have that, she knew it had to start with an education, so that she could earn steady income and give her son the stable life she didn't have. Since graduating, she has found her own apartment and is working towards college.
Ann said, "I enjoyed every day here at NEKLS, because no matter what was going on in my life, I could always get help here. The teachers respected my learning style and helped me through. It was hard work at times, and sometimes it wasn't fun, but in the end, it was worth it." She learned more than simple academics; she learned about herself and her strengths. She learned that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to.
When presented with her diploma, Ann said, "This school is awesome and can teach anybody!"