Defying the Odds

Rosalind Johnson’s world was turned upside down when she learned her mother had cancer, and her school work suffered. Thanks to Launch and a partnership with Missouri Options, Rosalind was able to graduate. Rosalind Johnson was always the happy kid
By Savannah Waszczuk

Rosalind Johnson’s world was turned upside down when she learned her mother had cancer, and her school work suffered. Thanks to Launch and a partnership with Missouri Options, Rosalind was able to graduate.

Rosalind Johnson was always the happy kid in class. “When I was younger, I loved school,” she says. A smile takes over Rosalind’s face as she thinks back to easier days. “I was that kid who was always trying to help the teacher out,” she says. “That kid who always wanted to be the line leader and stuff like that—I was that student.”
Rosalind’s relationship with school changed a few years ago, but not by choice. She was faced with life circumstances that were completely out of her control. “We found out that my mom had breast cancer, and that she was the stage right before the last stage,” Rosalind says. Eventually her mother’s breast cancer became less critical, but then she developed stomach cancer, which presented equally serious risks. “My mom means everything to me,” Rosalind says. “I don’t know what I would do without her.”

The Rocky Road to Launch
Shortly after learning of her mother’s diagnosis, Rosalind did her best to prevail. “I kept going to school at first,” says Rosalind, who is now 17. “But then I got this weird vibe—it was like I couldn’t go to school without knowing my mom was okay. I would go, but then I’d find literally any reason I could to get to go home. I’d get sick out of nowhere—something like that.” While Rosalind was physically in a school building and attending seated classes at this time, she had zero focus. “It wasn’t about me learning anymore at that point,” Rosalind says. “It was just me being there in front of other kids.”
Eventually, Rosalind stopped attending seated classes at Springfield’s Central High School and began taking a few classes online. This also proved to be difficult, as life continued to present Rosalind with challenges. “As we were going through all of these chemos and all of these treatments, I just grew further and further away from school,” Rosalind says. “They dropped me for the rest of the year, and they said next year I could try again.”
By the time next year came around, Rosalind was becoming mentally unstable. “In my head, I was having issues with coping with my mom being sick,” Rosalind says. “It got harder for me. I can honestly say that was the lowest part of my life.” But Rosalind’s mindset changed after her mother got a phone call. “My mom literally called me balling,” Rosalind says. “She told me, ‘They have an opportunity for you to get back in school—they’re going to help you.’”
Launch could be a solution for Rosalind—in fact, its credit recovery and credit acquisition courses were actually designed to make it possible for students like Rosalind to re-engage and earn a high school diploma. Another benefit in Rosalind’s favor was Launch’s recent partnership with the Missouri Options Program, which was created for students who have the capabilities to complete high school graduation requirements of the State of Missouri but lack the credits to graduate and are at the risk of leaving high school without a diploma. Both credit recovery and Missouri Options were a part of the plan that Launch would use to help Rosalind finish high school. “That moment when I heard her crying changed things for me,” Rosalind says, stating how her mother is truly the reason she had such a desire to finish high school. “I had never felt so motivated in my life.”

Getting Back on Track
As soon as Rosalind agreed to work with Launch, she was assigned Springfield Public Schools teacher Margo Griffith as her mentor. All Launch students in these types of situations receive mentors to provide guidance, motivation and assistance as needed. Mentors are chosen based on their passion to help students. “I really believe in this program,” Griffith says. “It’s giving kids an opportunity to change their lives or to get their lives back. Not all students need a high school education that is traditional—they just need to have a chance. This program is giving all kids a chance.” |
Griffith cheered Rosalind along, and Rosalind began working on her credit recovery courses as she also worked a full-time job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I live alone, and I pay all of my own bills,” Rosalind says. “I put myself in this place. I don’t have to live alone—I could live with my mom—but I know my mom cannot just get up and go get a job. I felt like if I could do this on my own, I would be a big help to my mom. I want my mom to be able to live her life now. I feel like it’s her time now, and she needs to have this time for herself.”
After completing her credit recovery courses, Rosalind began preparing for the HiSET, which is the high school equivalency exam used by Missouri Options. Rosalind had to pass tests in multiple content areas to pass the HiSET exam and earn her diploma. “When I passed my first test, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m about to pass all of these tests!,’” Rosalind says. In April 2018, Rosalind passed her last exam and officially became the first Launch student to graduate with the Launch/Missouri Options partnership.

Forward Progress
On the day that Rosalind officially graduated high school, she shared the confidence and drive she developed while working with Launch. “Me graduating high school makes me feel like I can do anything now,” Rosalind says. Rather than feeling apprehensive of continuing her education and going into the medical field—a dream she’s had since she was a child—Rosalind now feels ready. “It makes me feel like I can go and go to college and become a nurse and do all of those things I said I wanted to do when I was younger,” Rosalind says. “I’m excited for my future now, and I’m excited to say that. I haven’t really been able to say that in the past, because I really didn’t think I was going to do it at all. Until I got that phone call.That made me reconsider everything. This is one step closer to me accomplishing my dreams.”