Resilient…this is the word that best describes Alexis Jeffreys. Alexis has faced adversity from a very young age. Rather than give up, her challenges have pushed Alexis to adapt and find new ways of achieving her goals. From the time she was very young Alexis has been taking care of and serving others, starting with her mom. Her mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer 10 years ago, when Alexis was a young child. As her mother underwent a radical double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation, Alexis cared for her. Her mom said Alexis was her rock. In spite of their trials as a family, Alexis did well in school. She was bright and had a solid academic record going into her junior year of high school.
As is often the case, life took a twist. During her junior year Alexis was diagnosed with a heart condition that required surgery. During this health crisis Alexis fell further and further behind in school. With a tutor provided by the school district to work with her for only 6 hours a week, it became apparent Alexis would not be able to keep up with her peers in high school and graduate. Devastated, Alexis dropped out of high school. Rather than wallowing in despair, Alexis started looking for alternatives. Attaining a diploma had been her goal, but when that dream was taken from her, Alexis stepped outside the box and started pursuing her GED.
Initially Alexis attempted to complete her GED on her own. However, the cost of the tests became a huge barrier for her and her family. Just as she started to despair of ever being able to complete her GED, she found the Elevate program thanks to the marquis in front of the Y advertising our program.
In January 2016, Alexis and her mom Kim walked into the Y. Their love for each other was apparent as they told their story. Alexis’s mom was full of hope for her daughter, but she was consumed with worry about Alexis’s future. As we explained the program to them both, that Elevate is a free program, all testing fees would be paid for by the program, Alexis would go to Career training and she would earn stipends as she completed the different components of the Elevate program, Kim said, “You’re program is a miracle.”
When we also shared that our graduates participate in the graduation ceremony at Rock Valley College where they walk across the stage in full cap and gown, they looked at each other and cried. Kim said to her daughter, “I’ll get to see you graduate.” And with that, hope was restored to a beautiful young woman and her mother.
Alexis entered our classroom at the YMCA two weeks later, and completed her GED within a month. She was unbelievably impressive; a young person faced with so much, yet willing to fight for what she wants in life. Alexis participated in the graduation ceremony at Rock Valley College. Her mother watched, along with her father and his new family, whom Alexis hadn’t seen for a long while. They came together to celebrate her achievement.
Even now, Alexis faces a daunting future filled with medical procedures and challenges. Instead of living in fear of the future or giving up, Alexis is enrolling in Rock Valley College to fulfill her dream of becoming an oncology nurse, caring for people battling cancer.
Alexis embodies the spirit of resiliency we see in many of our students. Her story uplifts all of us that have worked with her, and reaffirms everyday why we do what we do.