Jessica Caldwell was 12-years old when she and her four siblings were removed from their home by DHS. She spent the next several years moving from foster care to the projects, at times so frustrated with her situation that she wanted to give up. Yet despite the barriers placed in her path, Jessica graduated from Metro Career Academy (MCA) at 16-years old, and is now a thriving college student.
MCA Student Ambassador, Tour Guide, Lead Recycler and Prom Committee name only a few of Jessica's extracurricular activities during her two years at MCA. She worked in the school office as part of her work-study program, maintained a 3.5 GPA, and earned the title of Salutatorian when she was ranked 4th in her graduating class. She also paged for Senator Constance Johnson at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Although Jessica made her high school career look easy, it was a constant battle to stay afloat.
“I was placed with my father after a few years in foster care, and my teachers and the staff at MCA saved me many times by making sure I had food, clothing and anything else I needed," Jessica said. In addition to the staff at MCA, Jessica credited the Metro Tech Foundation for financial support, and the Perry Klassen Clinic for medical care she didn’t have access to elsewhere.
The determination Jessica said she’s had since birth motivated her to finish high school credits in just two years, and then file for legal emancipation with the courts, a goal she had been working on for quite some time.
“Emancipation was my way to get out of the projects, and I had to prove I could live on my own and provide for myself, so I pushed myself to graduate quickly,” she said.
With the support, encouragement and hands-on effort of MCA staff; The Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma; and a host of church family and mentors, Jessica was declared emancipated, then graduated from MCA in May of 2013. She was also named the 2013 Boys and Girls Club Student of the Year, a safe place she has received help, and simultaneously volunteered with children, since 2010. Giving to others, she explained, eased her heartache during trying times.
Today, 17-year old Jessica is a full-time student at the University of Central Oklahoma, living in the dorms and taking 19 credit hours this semester while working part-time in the financial aid office. In the fall, she will transfer to the University of Oklahoma to major in Constitutional Law. Jessica plans to become a family law attorney, and is already working with state legislators to re-write the laws on emancipation.
Although supporting herself is stressful, Jessica said everything she worked for is now paying off.
“My siblings are back with our mother, so I help support them. I want them go to college someday, too, and I have to set the example.”