Young mom overcomes tough odds to graduate high school during pandemic

Posted at 10:56 AM, Jun 22, 2020

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, tens of millions of school kids across the country suddenly found themselves going to school at home. Among them was 17-year-old Andya Sharps.

“It was kind of rough, my high school year,” she said, “but I'm just excited that it's all over.”

It was rough, in part, because in addition to being a high school senior during the pandemic, Andya also has a young son.

“We had to learn how to do work at home, instead of being around our teachers for help. So, it was just a little hard,” she said. “Then, [my son’s] out of school on top of that. So, I had to deal with his schoolwork and my schoolwork at home.”

Despite the challenges, she’s now graduating from her Philadelphia high school having been student of the month several times and with perfect attendance.

“She came to us with her infant and she came with her determination and she just had a drive to finish,” said Lita Byrd, principal of Ombudsman Northwest Accelerated High School.

Andya’s accomplishments left her grandmother, Adrienne Pearson, nearly speechless.

“As talkative as I am, I’m kind of without words to express it,” Pearson said. “This is just magnificent that she's doing this she's doing this for herself, as well as for her son, and I am so very, very proud of her.”

However, Andya had help along the way, too, thanks in part to an immersive curriculum and program for 12,000 at-risk students in U.S. public schools through ChanceLight Ombudsman Educational Services.

“You've got to create that environment where, one, that the slate is wiped clean, it's a brand-new day and we're going to find out what you're really strong in,” said ChanceLight CEO Mark Claypool.

For them, technology has always been a part of that, which is why they say the pandemic didn’t affect their students’ ability to learn remotely, as much as it did others.

As for Andya, she’s heading to college and plans to study pediatric physical therapy.

“You can do anything that you put your mind to,” she said, “no matter what.”