Woman works through dark past to succeed in college

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Rachelle Grey, 21, is a Virginia City High School graduate currently studying international affairs at George Washington University.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Rachelle Grey, 21, is a Virginia City High School graduate currently studying international affairs at George Washington University.

She thought about it when she got car insurance. She thought about it when she looked for an apartment.

She thought about it when she went to college, and she thought about it over summer.

Rachelle Grey, 21, said she's thought many times how it would be easier if she'd had a parent to help her.

"The kids (at school) are so impressive, and sometimes I don't feel that I'm nearly as good," said Grey, a junior at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "A lot these kids went to private schools or they're from the Northeast or they have a friend who's Lebanese and they went to an American school in London and their dad's, like, an oil consultant."

She said she wishes she had someone who would call her to make sure she was doing well in school.

Though she's dealt with most of her memories of how she was put in foster care when she was 15 years old, she'll sometimes remember new things that happened to her before she was taken away by the state. Hiding the memories is probably something her body did to help her survive, she said.

"Sometimes I don't want to think about those things," she said. "It doesn't do any good."

Grey has lived in more than 30 places, including her move to Carson City as a child. She always wanted to move out East and go to school, though, and all she thought about was "college, college, college" when she went to high school in Virginia City.

Now she wants to try to find a job at the U.S. State Department or helping countries in the Middle East provide better services for the poor. She will have degrees in economics and international affairs when she graduates.

This semester, Grey will study Arabic in Egypt. She said she's excited about it and hopes it will help her find a job before she graduates.

Finding a job, she said, "is probably more important than anything to me."

Though the state did what it could after it took Grey from a physically abusive home, care for children and teenagers isn't what it should be, said Nancy O'Neill, a specialist with the state division of child and family services.

"It's just very low on the priority list in Nevada," she said.

Many times, children such as Grey are moved through several homes and have foster parents who "burn out" fast, said Kim Riggs, a representative with the division.

Grey didn't like most of the workers she dealt with nor the places she stayed. But she understands the problems in the system better now, she said, and tries not to blame anyone.

She wants to eventually help teenagers in foster care transition when they leave the system.

She's worried about all the debts from college loans she'll have when she graduates, though. She said she didn't realize how expensive her school was.

"It was really scary because I didn't have parents or anything to help me (when I left)," she said. "I just went."

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

You Can Help

To help Rachelle Grey with school, contact Nancy O'Neill with the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services at 684-4431 or nloneill@dcfs.state.nv.us.

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