When Savannah Payne was just 15, a young mother recruited her to babysit her 10-day-old son. One day she dropped the baby off at Savannah’s home — and never came back.
“She would message me every two or tree weeks and ask, ‘How is Nova?’” she recalled. The mother went on, “I can’t take him. You have to keep him for now.”
That was a tall order for a young woman who had just started high school. But she didn’t see any option, so she raised the child for the next five months. During that time, she did it all: Bought diapers, wipes, baby toys and food; made him a special formula that wouldn’t upset his sensitive digestive system; lost plenty of sleep and gave plenty of love.
The one thing she couldn’t fit in, though, was the schedule of a traditional high school.
She dropped out but didn’t want to settle for a GED. Traditional schools told her, “We can’t help you. You have to come on site all the time.”
Even after the baby’s grandmother took him in, Savannah couldn’t manage a traditional schedule because she had to work full-time to support herself and her family. She enrolled in an all-online school but found it unfulfilling. For one thing, when you graduate, “you don’t have a paper diploma, you don’t get a ceremony, you don’t get anything.”
Once she found her way to St. Lucie Acceleration Academy, she knew she was home. “It was comforting,” she said. “I knew I was going to make it to graduation.”
And recently, she did — claiming the diploma she had worked so hard to earn and opening the door to her plans for college.
When she began at SLAA, she was still taking care of baby Nova. She said science coach Amine Brown encouraged her to work with him on Zoom even during times when she needed to change a diaper or feed the child.
“He was patient and let me stop and take care of the baby,” she said. “He said, ‘We’ll just get on Zoom right now and do it.’”
Other SLAA team members were also helpful, working with her to push past challenges in math, directing her to academic resources to supplement her studies, and helping her pick her spirits up when she was feeling overwhelmed.
Graduation candidate advocate Coralynn Long played a unique role. “That’s my best friend. I love her,” said Savannah. “If I feel stressed out, I can come to her and talk to her about my life.”
One recent afternoon, Savannah stopped by the campus with her dog, Storm. She and Coralynn exchanged small talk and a long hug.
“She’s a very old soul,” said Coralynn. “She’s wise beyond her years.”
And now she’s got a diploma to hang on the wall as she moves on to a career in health care, possible aiming to win admission to medical or veterinary school.
“I wasn’t happy with a GED,” she said, adding with pride, “I’m the first in my family to graduate.”
Want to pursue your high school diploma in the powerfully personalized way that has worked for Savannah and hundreds of other students? Check out the St. Lucie Acceleration Academy page to find out how you can #OwnYourSuccess.