June 3, 2010 in Washington Voices

Mother rebounding, hitting her stride after success, impressive volunteer work

By The Spokesman-Review

“She’s my world,” said Barker High School and Learning Center student, Jessica Salo, about her 2-year old daughter, Valynncia. Raising her daughter and working were a driving force for Salo’s success in earning her high school diploma. She plans on attending SCC and studying massage therapy.
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Class of 2010

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Jessica Salo has a good head on her shoulders: She knows what she needs to do and she gets it done.

The Barker High School student graduated in March and will walk with her class on June 10. But high school wasn’t always a priority for Salo, or even a part of her life.

When Salo began at Central Valley High School, things got rough at home and her parents split up. She left CV after her freshman year and transferred to Contract Based Education. Her parents eventually divorced and Salo dropped out of school.

“I gave up completely,” she said. “But it was my dream to be a massage therapist and I knew I’d have to go back to school for that.”

In the fall of her junior year, with only three high school credits, Salo enrolled at Barker. She not only excelled in her classes, she found a place where she was safe, comfortable and happy. “It was like my home,” she said. She became a role model, putting together a food drive, volunteering at a local church, and volunteering with other Barker students at Thanksgiving, providing 10 Spokane Valley families with a hot meal.

Salo also joined four of her classmates in February at a Central Valley School Board meeting to lobby for a bigger school for Barker, now housed in the former Blake Elementary School on Broadway.

Just three days shy of her 18th birthday, Salo gave birth to a baby girl. Her daughter Valynncia only motivated her more to graduate and push for a better future. Salo’s older brothers and sister, although employed with good jobs, dropped out and still regret not finishing high school. “I knew I had to finish high school, not only for myself, but for my family and my daughter,” she said.

Salo credits Barker for a lot of her success. “Barker made me grow up,” she said. “I love Barker. I think it’s a really good option for anybody who has doubts about their education. I’m glad I came here.”

Salo, now 20, hasn’t forgotten her dream of becoming a massage therapist. She’s applied at Spokane Community College and she’s also considered physical therapy and respiratory therapy programs. In the meantime, Salo works part time at a restaurant.

When she’s not at work, she’s playing with her daughter and watching her grow. Being a mom is her most important role, she said; Valynccia is her world. “Being a mom showed people I can do it. I didn’t drop out. I can be a student, I can be a mom, I can be myself,” Salo said.

Rainey Coffin can be reached at (509) 927-2166 or via e-mail at raineyc@spokesman.com.

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