When Ariel Perkins graduates from Havermale High School, she’s not exactly going to have time to stop and smell the roses. Not with a 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter waiting for her attention.
Perkins is a fifth-year senior at Havermale who will receive her diploma as a result of her own tenacity, but also because of the overwhelming amount of support she has received at the school where she’s been enrolled for the past three years.
Perkins’ path hasn’t been easy, and she acknowledges that some of her decisions have contributed to the adversity she’s faced. She admits to having second-guessed herself during her lowest times, but ultimately she’s happy that she chose to deliver and keep custody of her babies.
“Sure, I’ve wondered sometimes whether they’d be better off with someone else,” she said, “especially when I wasn’t feeling good about myself personally. But then I remind myself that it wouldn’t necessarily be better, and that I know when they’re with me, they’re with someone who loves them.
“Obviously, I didn’t plan to get pregnant,” she continued, “but I wouldn’t call it a mistake, either. I can’t change anything that happened in the past; I can only do what I can to make our lives better. I’m looking forward, not back.”
Not that it’s easy. She lives with her boyfriend’s family and cares for her kids with the help of the Havermale Early Learning Center and support from the Washington Division of Children and Family Services.
But her life, as hectic as it is, is more settled now than it’s been at any time during the past three years. She enrolled at Havermale after her sophomore year because of the child-care program there, but after leaving her grandparents’ home, on more than one occasion she found herself wondering where she was going to live.
She eventually stayed for several months at Alexandra’s House, a group-home refuge for young single mothers. She then lived for a time with her children’s father, but when that relationship came to an end, she found herself without a home and without prospects, calling homeless shelters until she was finally able to move in with a friend last summer.
One might imagine that school would be the last thing on Ariel’s mind, but that’s not so, says Havermale teacher Lori Wheeler.
“Ariel’s so bright and curious about learning,” Wheeler said, “and she told me one time, ‘I don’t know why I never give up; I just can’t quit.’ Her resilience is remarkable, and she’s got great confidence that she’s going to make it.
“With all the stuff she’s been through the last three years, getting a diploma is like someone else getting into Harvard. We’ve taken great joy in her success, especially this year.”
Ariel credits the support she’s received at Havermale for helping her through her most difficult times.
“The thing that’s different here is that the teachers have time and make time to know and care about each of their students. It was hard last year when I found out I couldn’t graduate on time, but I figured I’d already been in high school for four years, so what was one more?”
Ariel plans to attend Spokane Falls Community College after she graduates, then apply to the Seattle Midwifery School. Both her children were born out of hospital with the assistance of midwives, and she is committed to having a career in that profession.
In the meantime, she’s completing her final required courses and her senior culminating project on the subject of midwifery. She is a tireless learner and self-taught in many of the consumer sciences. She’s even sewing her own formal gown for the senior prom.
Havermale staff member Hydee Reber sums Perkins up:
“Ariel is really focused and determined, smart and a survivor. Her ability has enabled her to persevere, to pick herself up and keep going. No matter what, she hasn’t ever lost sight of graduating and moving forward with her life.”