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Ebony Nava attended school only to the second grade—her parents pulled her out to home school, but they never did. In her late teens, she was encouraged by others who recognized her intelligence to earn a GED® credential and with that document in hand and the confidence it inspired, she gained custody of her siblings and enrolled in college.
Interviewed for the nationally broadcast KET series Dropping Back In, Ebony tells how education has changed not only her life, but that of her younger siblings as well.
“By the time I was 18 and started working I had pretty much given up hope of getting any kind of formal education,” she recalled. “I was just getting any job I could get that would hire people that didn’t have a high school or equivalency diploma.”
Ebony, unmarried, had a child of her own. In addition, she sought and won custody of her six siblings, ages 6-16. Shouldering apartment rent, a car payment and daily living expenses required her to take on three minimum wage jobs to try to make ends meet.
“I didn’t want them to have to face the life that I had started going down the path of,” Ebony said, offering the reason she sought custody of her brothers and sisters on grounds of educational neglect. “I knew that education was going to be the biggest game changer in their lives.”
Ebony had been under the impression that gaining a GED diploma was actually little more than a mark of failure. But a powerful sense of shame motivated her to overcome this view, pass the GED test and go on to Bluegrass Community & Technical College and a 3.9 GPA.
With their big sister serving as a positive role model, Ebony’s brothers and sisters entered public school for the first time in their lives – none in remedial courses, two in advanced classes and all active in sports, scouting, dance and other typical activities that had not been in the cards for this not-so-typical family.
“My goal now is at least a master’s degree in one of the science fields,” says Ebony.” I would really like to do Doctors Without Borders. You can do whatever your put your mind to. As far as my education, I think I succeeded because I really wanted it.”