Social Worker Helps Weatherford Student Succeed

Wednesday is the last day of the school year for Weatherford ISD students, and graduation is all that separates seniors at Weatherford High School from reality.

Ali English, 18, got a glimpse of that real world, and it almost put her on a path to nowhere.

"I was a mess," she told NBC 5. "I used other resources to feel better, like drugs and alcohol, and stuff which wasn't good."

English came to Weatherford from Bracketville, Texas, three years ago. Her mom had died from an aneurysm following a stroke. Her dad was not in the picture. So, she moved in with her half-sister and her husband and their small daughter.

She was also starting a new high school. English, for the most part, was alone.

"The school system here is a lot different than from where I came from. Everyone knew each other, and all the teachers knew all the students by name," she said. "I came here, and it was like, I was lost with everyone else in here."

English slowly found connections with classmates and teachers, but during her senior year she had a bit of break down.

"I went to a teacher. I was crying and she was like, 'Go to CIS,'" English said.

"'What is that?' she asked.

"And she said, 'Social worker.' And, I heard 'social worker,' and I freaked out. I was like, 'I don't want to go." English recalled. "'What do you mean a social worker? I don't need a social worker.'"

"She was panicking about some Medicaid information. And I did what I could to help her apply," said Morgan Eary, the social worker. "She really needed to go to the doctor because she hadn't been for several years. We were able to take her to doctor's appointments and dentist appointments."

Eary is the Communities in Schools (CIS) program manager at Weatherford High School. CIS is a nonprofit in Tarrant County with a 25-year record of getting kids on the edge back on track.

"We target academics, attendance and behavior to keep kids in school, keep them graduated and help them meet their goals," Eary said.

"It's been a great partnership, like they've always been here taking care of our kids," said Weatherford principal Kristy Dowd.

CIS started working at the high school this year and supports about 80 to 90 students dealing with various issues that threaten to keep them out of class.

Dowd said school counselors are a "strong support system, but Communities in Schools can do things they simply cannot do, like transportation, extra home visits, taking kids to college trips and visits. It's been outstanding."

"I was able to connect with teachers and form some really good bonds with people," English said. "And they've helped me along the way to become a very successful student."

She stayed focused on school as the social worker helped with emotional support, medical appointments and financial aid forms for college.

"She was angry and didn't know what to do with her grief," Eary said. "And if people don't talk about it, they tuck it away and use other coping skills like drugs and alcohol. She was able to pull herself out of it."

"I was finally able to pull myself out of that because it wasn't the life I wanted, and my mom wouldn't have wanted that either," English said. "She never finished high school or college, so college and high school is very important to me."

English came to Weatherford High School with plenty of grit. Principal Dowd says she now leaves with "confidence and knowing that she has a chance and a path and a vision of what she can be."

"I'm always amazed at the resiliency of teenagers," Eary said. "It always makes my heart so happy to see how far they've come and knowing how far they're gonna go."

English will attend Weatherford College in the fall with the goal of becoming a trauma nurse. It's another connection to her mom.

"My mom had the stroke in front of me, and I panicked. I screamed. I felt useless and didn't know what to do. And I want to help people," she said.

First, though, English had to recognize she needed help and accept it.

"I couldn't have done it myself if I didn't have help along the way," she said.


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