For Taylor Pauls, a 19-year old senior at Common Ground High School, attending graduation is about being there for her family.

Taylor will be the first from her family to graduate high school and the first to head to college, so this accomplishment means a lot to her support system. Taylor says:

At first, I didn’t want to go to my graduation because it’s going to be a really emotional day for me and my family. I wasn’t really ready for that. But as I see my family making all of these reservations to be here, I’m like, ‘wow, this is for them, it’s not just about me.’

“My guidance teacher, Mr. Kelahan, told me, ‘This is for your mother, your aunts, your cousins, who’ve been there all your high school career. They’re looking forward to this moment, to seeing you walk on that stage and get your diploma,’” recalled Taylor. “That’s what I’m doing this for, I’m doing this for them.”

Graduating from Common Ground wasn’t always a sure thing for Taylor. When she and her mother – who has been Taylor’s main source of guidance and support since she was seven – entered her into the school choice lottery, they didn’t realize how tough it would be to travel across the city each day for school. Taylor’s freshman year was a struggle as she adjusted to the new environment, and she headed into summer wondering if she could continue.

Taylor and Mr. Kelahan in Common Ground’s new school building.

Taylor and Mr. Kelahan in Common Ground’s new school building.

“My biggest challenge was not giving up,” said Taylor. “Coming from a family where there are a lot of dropouts who left and got their GED, it was hard to not follow in their footsteps.”

Thankfully, she had a strong support system that kept her moving forward.

At school, Mr. Kelahan is the pillar of that system and has helped her from day one. “He’s always honest and is a genuinely good person,” says Taylor. “As my guidance teacher, he’s been there for me and my guidance brothers and sisters helping us walk the right path.”

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