Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Emancipated teen tries to break out of poverty

An Omaha TV station profiled young Chissa Sheppard. The teen emancipated herself from her family in an attempt to break free from poverty. Sheppard at 17 years old receives assistance to finish her high school education, and is also taking nursing classes.

However, Sheppard leaves nine younger siblings behind with her mother. Sheppard often had to stay home to take care of the children. She feels the emancipation gives her the opportunity to get an education. Sheppard currently lives with a cousin.

MSNBC picked up the story from Omaha's KETV.

“Poverty is impacting everything she does and every decision she makes and I think it really says a lot that she has made high school and this training program a priority for her,” said Tobi Mathouser, Partnership Program coordinator at Omaha’s Goodwill Industries.

Shepard is part of the program which pays her and other high school dropouts to go to school, train for a job and plan for a career.

She chose to attend training to be a nursing assistant through Caregiver Support Services at 36th and Dodge streets.

Mathouser said Goodwill’s mission is to remove barriers that prevent people from finding employment. In Shepard’s case, poverty is a barrier.

“Chissa is a very strong individual struggling with homelessness,” said Mathouser.

According to data from the nonprofit child advocacy group Voices For Children, 52-percent of African-American Children in Nebraska live in poverty.

Shepard will spend a month in class learning how to care for patients and administer medication.

She said the $12-an-hour job that will result from the training will help her decide whether she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. This week she’ll start attending classes to get her high school diploma. She’s already paid the fees necessary to take college entrance exams.

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