Posted on May 7, 2024
Categories: Student of the Month

Graduating high school is an impressive milestone for all of our students, and one that many have to overcome significant hurdles to accomplish. Octavia shines brightly as an incredible example of a student who persevered, and did not let significant circumstances keep her from achieving her goal. To hear her story is to marvel at her resilience and optimism and resourcefulness. She tells it in her own words, with acceptance, positivity and grace, and says although parts of her story might sound tragic to some, she looks at every experience she’s had as a blessing. She knows she’s overcome a lot. “I’ve lost so much, now I just appreciate the little things.”

Octavia is a proud, graduating EOP senior at 38 years old. The Opportunity Network prides itself on meeting the needs of adult learners in a supportive environment, and the South Philadelphia High School Educational Options Program (EOP) creates opportunities for adults to return to school and earn a high school diploma, under the care of Director Audrey Nock.

Octavia has 3 children, one who is going to be graduating at the same time as she does, this spring! She’s thoroughly enjoyed sharing this experience, laughing as she explains that, now she knows what he’s experiencing, because she did all the same things – took exams, turned in projects, won awards, and even attended prom! She beams as she describes the way her son fixed her husbands’s prom tie, joking that ‘he felt like the proud parent’.

As someone who grew up without a support system or a backup option of any kind, Octavia is now dedicated not only to her kids, but to all the children her kids befriend, and all of her peers at EOP. She wants to become a high school teacher, to be in a position to help kids as they go through that last chapter before they’re out, on their own.

She credits the EOP program, and in particular, Ms. Nock, who is so much more than a principal to her and her fellow classmates. Octavia says with enthusiasm, “It’s fun. I hadn’t been back to school in 20 years but at EOP there is so much support. Everyone there is going through something and whatever they need, this program, and Ms. Nock, will be there, whether it’s things, or money or encouragement. It’s a whole support system.”

She returns the favor ten-fold, says Ms. Nock. Not only has she succeeded by having the highest GPA and being nominated the President of the school, “she assists her classmates with finding ways to overcome potential barriers to completing their high school diploma. During the last trimester, she created small mentoring groups where EOP students discussed emotional, financial, or other issues with their peers.

Octavia also hosted information sessions that offered creative ways to assist classmates and tutored her peers in different classrooms. As a direct result, several students were encouraged enough to earn high grades in their respective classes. She has provided transportation to classmates in emergencies and distributes food and clothing to the homeless in her spare time. All while dealing with her own personal load of concerns and hurdles.”

We asked Octavia our favorite list of questions:

1. What does being named Senior of the Month mean to you?

Being named Senior of the Month means a lot to me. It means that not only was I able to return to school to receive my diploma, but I  was able to network and create new relationships that along the way became a support system.  In adulthood, it’s rare that someone stops and says “Hey, I truly appreciate what you do or did.” Being recognized for my efforts feels rewarding.

I’m very big on treating people how you want to be treated! I have children ages 18, 14, and 8.  I remind them everyday that as long as they finish school,  they can accomplish anything they want in life. To return to school and earn a high school diploma has been a  journey for me.  If done right, it can open up a lot of opportunities.

Although I am an older adult, I am also doing this for my mother, who’s battling dementia. Before she lost her memory, the last thing we discussed was me obtaining my diploma and pursuing my dream of being a teacher. I am more than thankful that the School District of Philadelphia offers adults the opportunity to return to school and earn a high school diploma. This second chance means the world to me.

2. Why do you think you were nominated for Senior of the Month?

I believe that I was nominated because of my efforts and concern for my classmates. I apply myself and take initiative to share my concerns with the staff. They care about the students, however many of the older adult students think that they can handle everything themselves. I let them know, it’s ok to ask for help. I, in turn, help the best I can.

I am a class officer and I take my responsibilities seriously. I support my classmates in any way that I can. I’ve had the privilege of giving advice on Senior Project topics and I engage in all class activities. When things got a little hard and maybe even stressful for students, I was able to  coordinate the end of trimester celebrations for my classmates. During the celebration we  played music, ordered food and engaged in games.

I try to show that I genuinely care, because I do.  It’s not hard to show that you care. Also, we have used time to have many discussion groups that  allowed us to vent their troubles and possibly find solutions.

3. You were nominated by Ms. Audrey Nock. Explain your relationship to him/her. Why do you think s/he nominated you specifically?

I was nominated by Ms. Audrey Nock. She is more than the Director of the EOP program at South Philadelphia High School. She’s like the nurturer of the program. She encourages every student in EOP. Everyday, she states that we deserve it (the second chance).

Knowing that we work, have children, and are trying our hardest to show up for ourselves, while dealing with everyday life, she tries to make sure that we know that EOP is here to support us. She has coordinated and organized opportunities for food distribution, transportation, prom dresses, counseling and more.

She does her best to show up for us. I’m so grateful that Mrs. Nock sees me! I believe she sees my passion for people which in turn leads to success. I think she nominated me because I am a class officer who truly tries to mentor my classmates and assist in any way they may need.  I have shared my personal struggles with her. I know she sees in me what I want everyone to not only see, but emulate. I believe that she is proud of me.

It’s not easy to attend school, work full-time, parent my children, coach flag football, show up for my children’s accomplishments, cook dinner  and try my hardest to further my education all at the same time. So having a support system right within EOP is more than I could ask for.

4. What is one thing you’d like to share about yourself that most people don’t know about you?

I think my empathy for others is a direct result of  personal losses in my life. Most people don’t know that I am a mother of 3 beautiful children, who inspire and support me in everything I still try to accomplish today. I’ve had some things happen to me that would have probably caused most people to give up and never try again, but I love being able to lead by example. Most recently, my family and I had to experience the tragic loss of my stepson. He was shot and killed on the streets of Philadelphia, which is more than anyone should have to deal with. I try to escape the pain through writing music. This current situation and the past ones make this opportunity that much more important to me.

5. What do you enjoy most when you are not at school?

I am a wife, mother, a football coach, a cheer mom, and full time employee. I enjoy movie nights with my family, I love writing music and creating vision boards. I am sometimes adventurous and recently learned that I actually enjoy camping.

6. In your opinion, what is the best thing about attending school at South Philadelphia High School EOP ?

The best thing about attending South Philadelphia High School EOP would be the relationships I have developed with my classmates, and the teaching staff along with program supervisors, Mrs. Nock and Mrs. John. I have developed life-long friendships with my classmates. The staff members are supportive and caring. They have  a personal relationship with students because so many students enter the building in a state which I would term, “broken”. They have faced major family issues, homelessness, loss of children, domestic abuse, years of mental health issues, low paying jobs, and low self-esteem. As an adult I continue to master new academic concepts which I plan to pass on to others.

7. In your opinion, what is one thing that the School District could do to improve our service to students?

In my opinion, the school district should reach out to EVERY student who did not complete the high school requirements, and inform them that there is a (second chance program), which allows them to obtain their diploma for free, with no age cap. I’ve been through a few GED programs, secondary diploma programs, and none of them have been able to provide what the school district has been able to with their EOP program. The program works! Obtaining my credits has me feeling accomplished and smarter.

Octavia we are simply in awe. We wish you the very best in everything you do next!