Leaving High School• Jessica Bergeron grew up in a broken household with a father who never walked through the doors of his high school and an older brother who dropped out before graduating.• Income was low and academics were not of high concern for Bergeron or her family.• By 15 years old, Jessica Bergeron was living on her own.• By 16 years old, Bergeron left high school to make time for work.• "My grades were failing grades,” Bergeron said. “I needed to work to get money for rent and to find my own food, to buy my own clothes.”
Making Hard Cash• Finding it difficult to manage work and cope with life’s struggles, Bergeron turned to drugs, alcohol and partying.• Living in the moment became a new addiction that easily gave Bergeron a way of avoidance.• Marijuana led to more serious addictions such as Xanax and other depressants.• In effort to make more money, she and her best friend turned to stealing.• ”It began with pickpocketing money for weed,” Bergeron said. “It’s weed that got me hooked on everything else. You just want more, a bigger high. I was stoned out of my mind."
“Wait! This is a cop car?!”• Bergeron’s addiction to Xanax left her forgetting days on end, but for her it was worth it- she was invincible.• She began stealing out of vehicles for anything- money, drugs, electronics, etc.• One night with her best friend, Bergeron was rummaging through a car when she opened up the glove box to find a gun and a badge. All behold- an undercover police car.
A Time Out for Statistics • Nearly 50 percent of the prison population have dropped out of Prison inmates high school. who are high school dropouts Prison inmates who graduated high school
Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect$200• Bergeron had spent two times in jail for minor infractions before getting caught robbing a police car.• She spent her third time in jail for a period of 29 days on a conviction of seven counts of simple burglary.• After being released, she was put on probation for a sentence of 4 years.• She was only 18 years old.
A Slap In the Face? Not So Much.• After spending a month in jail, Bergeron decided to distance herself from a few obvious bad influences.• She turned her back from stealing, from her best friend and from drugs (for the most part).• Years passed. She continued to party some and hop from job to job, living life by each day and nothing more.
A Time for Change• By 22 years old, Bergeron had made many changes to her life.• She paid off all debts, worked stable jobs, owned a nice vehicle, lived on her own and found an identity in Christianity.• All that was stopping her from progressing was the lack of an education.• Bergeron refused to confront the regret she felt in not having a high school education.• "I planned to take my GED, but I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough. I’m not exactly a math wiz," Bergeron said laughingly. "I thought about the future but never planned for it, hell no."
A Little More Data • According to research, 30 percent of dropouts either go back to high school or decide to take the GED, giving education Dropouts who a second chance. get their GED Dropouts who bypass an education
2012• By 23 years old, Bergeron was tired of letting opportunities pass her by.• In March of 2012, she decided to to take her GED.• She passed on her first attempt.• “[I felt] like a million bucks!" Bergeron said. "I felt like I could do anything, like the gate was open, free to have options. Immediately, I began to plan for the future."• She no longer sees school as just a test on education, but rather a test for success determined by one’s own determination.
Plans, plans and more plans• Within the same week of receiving her GED, Bergeron got to work on planning her next step toward a better future.• She intends to attend BRCC in the fall of 2012 and to transfer to LSU as a sophomore.• "[Passing] made me realize that things aren’t impossible; you just have to reach for them," Bergeron said. "Now, I literally want to learn things. I am dreaming of things I never did, because now I know I can do it."
And yet, more partying?• After receiving her GED, a surprise graduation party was thrown in her honor.• Balloons, confetti, gifts, cake, streamers and family greeted her as she walked through the door. An experience she thought she had let pass her by was never forever instilled in her memory. She currently awaits the arrival of her graduation ring in the mail.