Focusing on the Future: Jamal’s Story

By Jill Lahmann, Treehouse Education Specialist

The first day that I met with Jamal, a 10th grader and member of Treehouse’s Class of 2017, he sat down and immediately shared with me the educational barriers that were standing in the way of his two biggest goals: playing football and going to college. He had been in four high schools by the time he landed at his current high school in Seattle, and due to his many transitions he had missing credits that had not transferred between schools and outstanding fines due to the suddenness of his placement changes.

Jamal Focuses on His Future

What stood out to me from that first meeting with Jamal was his mature determination, his clear focus on his future, and his ability to utilize support systems to help him accomplish his plans. After running into some resistance when trying to advocate for himself at previous schools, Jamal and I paired our efforts to contact his past schools. I’m proud to say that we were able to retrieve many of his credits, and make a list of additional credits he needed in order to stay on track to graduate.

Through the assistance of Little Wishes, we were able to waive or pay all of his outstanding fines that would hinder Jamal from getting to play football, and ultimately—receive his diploma. Once this was accomplished, Jamal was able to move forward on his to-do list as well as focus on getting him settled into his new school and preparing for football season.

This summer, Jamal is taking driver’s education and making up some of his missing credits through his high school. Having the freedom of a driver’s license has been appealing to Jamal since he was young, since it is important for him to be independent and to be able to find his siblings and family members no matter where he is living. His plan is to complete his missing credit courses this summer so he can thrive in his final two years of high school and eliminate all of the hurdles that held him back during his many transitions in years prior. Not only does Jamal focus on leading a life he is proud of, but he is a great example for his seven younger siblings to look up to.

Moving forward into these next two years, Jamal and I will be looking into colleges at which he can be a student athlete, securing post-secondary housing, and continuing to develop a strong network of adults and peers that Jamal can depend on as he moves into his adult life. My work with Jamal has consistently been driven by his large goals and ambitions, and his mature ability to break these down into actionable steps. Jamal is resilient and capable beyond his years in these skills and I am confident that they will lead him through successful junior and senior years of high school. My confidence in his success is not to say that there will not be challenges of varying proportions that may arise, but in the eight months I have been working with him, Jamal has shown time and again that any challenge he may face he knows how to advocate for himself, or seek those who can assist him.

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About the Author

As a Treehouse Education Specialist, Jill Lahmann meets with middle and high school students in the Seattle and Snoqualmie School District to help them stay on track in their classes, set meaningful goals, and transition to fulfill their post-secondary dreams.

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