HS dropout gets second chance at Catapult Academy in Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — She was homeless, and a high school dropout. Jianna Figuerao thought she had hit a dead end in life, but soon she found a second chance.

“I was in a low point. I felt like I didn’t have the support from my family, so I left home. And at that point, I was on my own trying to work full time, make money in order for me to stay in a home,” Figuerao said.

Desperate for a second chance, Jianna discovered Catapult Academy. It’s a tuition-free program through Hillsborough County Schools that gives student ages 16 to 21 a chance to get their high school diploma by offering flexible school hours.

Jianna enrolled and was able to juggle her high school load for a year while working at a nearby McDonald’s.

All of the hard work paid off, and now Jianna has her diploma.

“I’m going to HCC, I’m already enrolled in school. Hopefully, in two years I can go to a university. I want to go into medicine, hopefully a pediatrician. That’s my goal and I can because I have my high school diploma now,” said Figuerao.

Figuerao says her journey was not an easy one, but she wants other dropouts to know it can be done.

“I would say don’t give up. It might be tough at times, and there might be things going on at home and drama at school. You need your high school diploma, you need to stay in school,” she said.

Jianna is reconciled with her family, who she says is incredibly supportive of her next chapter of life, and she reaches for new goals.

The McDonald’s she works at is so impressed with her drive they have promoted her to assistant manager.

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