Ask Jareth Heilman to describe himself and he’ll say he’s the class clown, the sweetheart, the funny guy.
“People think I can’t be serious and they are shocked when they find out what I’ve been through,” Heilman said. “Humor is how I deal with a lot of stuff.”
Heilman was born in Seattle. He’s never met his dad, and he moved near Riverside High School with his mom to help take care of his grandmother who was dying from cancer.
“It was OK,” he said. “We lived in a little trailer. It was home.”
Two years ago, his mother’s boyfriend moved in and things changed.
“I’d come home and they were never there,” Heilman said. “There was no food in the house.”
After earning exactly one credit in his sophomore year, high school graduation seemed pretty elusive. Family friends Rob and Angie Lee saw his struggle and asked if he wanted to move in with them.
“I took a day to think about it before I said yes,” Heilman said. His mom was evicted soon after. “People tell me I dodged a bullet,” he said.
Now he’s making all A’s and B’s, and he’s done both track and cheerleading this year. Heilman will graduate from Riverside High School with the rest of his class, and he has plans to attend Spokane Falls Community College for two years, before transferring to Eastern Washington University for a nursing degree.
He loves English and writing.
“I do raps. Not like violent rap – it’s more like telling a story,” Heilman said. “Writing helps me vent about things.”
His grandmother died from cancer, but he continues to see his grandfather a lot.
“I love that man to death,” Heilman said.
It’s been two months since he last talked to his mom. He said he’s sad that she’s missing out on his life, especially now when he’s graduating and moving on to college.
“Life has just never been that easy for me,” he said.
But he feels confident about the future and he’s grateful for the support he’s found at Riverside and at the home of the Lees.
“Everyone says they are proud of me,” Heilman said, looking shy. “That’s all I want to hear. I’ve never heard that a lot until now.”