Rachel Tudela had her first child in January. She loves being a mom and looks forward to sharing her love of sports with her daughter, to helping her grow into her best possible self.
She’ll be able to tell her child, from her own experience, that it won’t always be easy — but that, with her own motivation and help from the caring educators at Bethel Acceleration Academy, she learned “it’s never too late.”
It almost was for Rachel. She moved to the United States from Tapei after running with a rough crowd at home and getting expelled. Joining family members in Washington state, she enrolled in a traditional high school but missed her chance to graduate with her class in 2018.
“I was not motivated to get my diploma,” she acknowledges. “I felt like I was doing it for nothing.”
When she began at BAA in the fall of 2019, academy educators told her she could earn her diploma in 3 months if she applied herself. Before long, though, she again lost momentum — a slog that only worsened when the Covid pandemic kept her from coming to the school each day.
As her 21st birthday approached this past summer — and with it, the deadline for earning her diploma — she knew she needed to bear down or lose her opportunity.
Academy team members were at her side at every step, even when Rachel lost momentum again and again. Graduation candidate advocate Jeanne Courtney provided steady moral support, Rachel said. “Miss Jeanne, she would always help me. She really helped me get through my courses. She just told me, ‘It will be okay, you have to push and push.’ ”
Also playing a big role was assistant academy director and social studies content coach Kevin Torres. “Coach Torres was extremely helpful. He was patient, he really listened to what I said,” she says. “He would always give me words of encouragement.”
As the deadline approached, the love got tough. Academy educators removed Rachel from the program due to her lack of effort, and she had to write a letter explaining why she wanted a last chance. “That really motivated me a lot,” she says. “I didn’t want to get my GED. I didn’t want to do it all over again.”
Just shy of her birthday, Rachel successfully completed her last course and celebrated her graduation. Now, instead of fretting over finishing high school, she’s making plans to attend trade school, build a business as a nail technician and invite her daughter to join her on the basketball court, the softball field, the soccer pitch.
“I want her to follow in my footsteps,” she says, “not be a pushover.”