Making Sense of Struggle

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, Success Stories

After living in foster care and later being moved to a group home, Felicity Winfield lacked the determination she needed to finish high school. Thanks to positive encouragement and a few Launch courses, she got on the right track and graduated in July 2019, and she plans to begin cosmetology school in the spring.

When she was a child, Felicity Winfield would sit on her bedroom floor and braid her Barbie doll’s hair. “I taught myself how to do all that when I was really little,” Felicity says. “It was just something that I really liked to do. I’d also braid my sister’s hair sometimes. But I taught myself how to braid by practicing on my Barbie dolls.”

As Felicity grew, so did her interest in cosmetology. Simple braids evolved to more elaborate updos. Her clientele transformed from her Barbies to her best friends, and they began asking her to style their hair for special occasions. She learned about applying makeup and researched proper skin care. She started painting and shaping nails—both her own and others. And she was so happy. When anyone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she answered confidently—a cosmetologist.

A Rocky Foundation

Felicity began attending Springfield Public Schools in fourth grade, and she didn’t have any real issues to speak of throughout elementary school or middle school. But then when it was time for high school, she began to struggle. “Things at home were iffy, and I was mean to my mom,” Felicity says. “I didn’t want to go to school.” So she didn’t.

Next Felicity ran away from home, and she was gone for three months. “When they found me, my mom was upset,” Felicity says. “She sent me back to Sikeston, Missouri, to be with my biological family on my dad’s side.” She struggled there, too, and eventually ended up in foster care. Next she moved to an all-girls group home. “When I was at the girl’s home, my transcripts got messed up, and I got so frustrated,” Felicity says. “I was done. I didn’t want to do school anymore.”

As Felicity neared what would be her sophomore year of high school, she learned that if she didn’t start going to school regularly she would never graduate. “I had nothing at all,” she says. “I didn’t have any credits from my freshman year, because I didn’t finish the school year.”

Redirecting the Path

It was around this time that Felicity had a conversation that changed her life. “I knew this man in the group home—the principal there—and he told me his story,” Felicity says. “He was in foster care and everything, too. I cried a little bit, but then I realized that I had hope for my future. I realized that even though everything didn’t start out the way I wanted it to, I knew I could still do what I needed to and be successful for myself.” 

Felicity changed the way she looked at life at this point. “When I got there at first, I was really hard headed,” she says. “I didn’t talk to anyone for about four months. But as more time went by, I realized—‘What am I doing? I’m wasting my time being here if I’m not trying. There are people here who love me and are trying to help me.’” Talking to other girls in the group home helped, too. “A lot of them struggled more than I did, and I realized how ungrateful I was being for the things I did have,” Felicity says.

Next Felicity began to pay attention to her school work, and she also began building relationships with the other girls in the home. “I started braiding their hair,” Felicity says. “That made me realize even more how much I loved doing hair, and the girls loved getting their hair done, because they don’t get to go off campus and do things like that.” This also gave Felicity even more motivation to finish high school. “When I saw that a lot of those kids were looking up to me, I knew I needed to do this,” she says. “They started doing their work and focusing and paying attention, too. And that made me happy.”

The Final Stretch

After a few more bumps in the road, Felicity found herself back in Springfield and three credits shy of graduation. “I didn’t have a way to get to school,” says Felicity. “That’s when my counselor at Kickapoo helped get me started with Launch.”

Felicity enrolled in English III, World History and American History courses, which were the three classes she needed to graduate. Over the summer, she began meeting Launch Graduation Advisor Katie Kensinger at an area coffee shop. Katie mentored Felicity and helped keep her motivated. “She had a lot of challenges over the last few years, but she is taking all the right steps to overcome them,” Katie says.

Felicity earned her final three credits with Launch, and she officially graduated in July 2019. “Without Launch, I wouldn’t have graduated, and I know that,” Felicity says. “But I did it. Launch helped me get through, and now I have even more hope for my future.” Felicity applied for cosmetology school, and she plans to start in winter 2019. “The things that have happened these past years aren’t even going to matter to me,” Felicity says. “Now I’ll be able to go on to cosmetology school, and then for the rest of my life, I’m going to be able to do something I love. All because I finally graduated high school.”