Perseverance is the key to the success of Evelyn Toombs in graduating from LearningQuest with her high school diploma equivalency.
Almost every support she should have had in life was lacking and getting her diploma seemed unreachable for most of her life. The fulfillment of something so impossible is all the more fulfilling for Evelyn.
At a young age, Evelyn Toomb’s father passed away. Leaving her, her brother, and her deaf mother alone. Her mother worked hard as the sole provider for her two children. But while her mother was busy working, Evelyn dropped out of school and soon fell into drug abuse.
“[My mom] made a way on her own for us...But like, behind the scenes, there was a lot of dark stuff that was happening that nobody ever really knew about...,” she said referencing physical and sexual abuse, “My mom tried to put me in my place, but I just did not respect her at this point."
After getting clean, Evelyn had her first boyfriend, but it almost immediately became toxic. Eventually, the abuse took its toll on her, and she started using drugs again.
In having her first child, she realized she wanted a better home life for her daughter, and they moved away to Modesto. At this point, she was able to find counseling for her drug addiction, got clean, and soon had her second daughter.
After that, she met the man that would become the father of her two youngest children. Unfortunately, this relationship also became toxic, and she would soon end up homeless. She spent five years living on the street and returned to using drugs to cope. That was when her husband decided to leave and used the courts to take their daughters with him.
Evelyn finally broke.
She knew she needed to do everything to rise and fight for her kids. A week later she ended up at the Modesto Gospel Mission where she was able to join a program that helped her get clean of drugs. “I was still battling the drug addiction for a year into my program, but
they still held on to me.” She was able to completely stop using in April of 2019. Her mother was able to see her get clean of drugs before passing away 4 months later.
After grieving the loss of her mother, Evelyn tackled her next hurdle: getting her diploma. Evelyn knew it was going to be hard, especially since she dropped out in 7th grade and would be starting further back than her peers. “I tried Come Back Kids (a high school credit recovery program), but this did not work for me. I wasn’t coming back to high school. I had never been in high school.” During her time there, they estimated that it would take her a total of 5 years to get her diploma. She discovered LearningQuest during this time and her instructor encouraged her to enroll.
While Evelyn found support from instructors and staff at LearningQuest, it was a struggle for her to accomplish her goals. “I was in tears in some classes,” said Evelyn. “[Instructor] Chong was so patient with me. She talked me down so I could continue... There were some days I didn't feel like I was getting anything out of it, especially the math part. Like, I just felt like I couldn't do it. But then when they finally encouraged me to go in for that first test and I saw that I passed I got that feeling in my in my little heart. I accomplished something and I can accomplish the next one, and the next one, and the next one!”
Evelyn continued to pursue her education, even when the world was facing a global pandemic. Even as she struggled with online learning, she never let it deter her from achieving her dreams. She would sit with her kids as they all did their online classes and homework together.
After much struggle, and a life of hardships, Evelyn rose to victory. On January 26th, 2023, she walked the stage and officially could call herself a High School graduate. Evelyn went on to thank instructors Courtney, Victoria, and the administrative services team.
“If it wasn’t for the people that put in for all the help provided to us, I would not have made it,” said Evelyn.“If it wasn’t for LearningQuest, I would not have my diploma.”
But this was just a stepping stone for Evelyn. At first, she had no plans beyond getting her high school diploma. It was through transition services at LearningQuest that she made her decision to continue her education. Evelyn spoke of Yanely, a transitions specialist, tapping her on the shoulder one day during class to come to talk about what she wanted to do next. “I was just like what do you mean? Am I supposed to keep going to school?” asked Evelyn. “I am not the best with computers. I get frustrated and give up,” she said. “She sat down with me to show me how to apply for Modesto Junior College. I would never have been able to do that on my own.”
Since graduating, Evelyn was hired as a full-time supervisor at the Modesto Gospel Mission and was able to get a home for her and her kids. She is now looking forward to going to Modesto Junior College to get her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology or Psychology to become a drug counselor. She also hopes to be a sign language interpreter to help people who are deaf. The impossible is now within her reach and she plans to let nothing stop her from her goals.
For students like Evelyn, the Building Hope Scholarship drive helps cover the cost of student services such as our Transitions team. Why stop at the classroom, when we can help them apply to college, or get the job of their dreams?
Help us provide for 150 MORE students, like Evelyn, to find their potential, and accomplish their goals after they walk the stage!
Thanks to the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, your gift may DOUBLE in value!