Senior recounts emancipation process for final project
Chayanne Clark dropped out of Carson High School at 14. Her father had recently died; her mother, Chayanne said, was sinking deeper into drug abuse.
She moved out of her house and slept on friends’ couches, staying only until their parents began to wonder why she wasn’t going home.
At 15, she lied about her age and got a job at a local restaurant, but decided the only way she would ever really get ahead was to go back to school.
“Slowly but surely I started to make a new life for myself while putting the broken pieces back together,” she said.
On Thursday, she presented her senior project to a community panel, the last step before being able to graduate next month.
“For most of my fellow classmates, the senior project is merely completed because it’s required in order for us to receive our high school diplomas, which will inevitably throw us out into the real world,” she told the panel. “For me, however, the senior project was much more than just school work. It has truly become a life lesson.”
Clark, 17, focused on the process of emancipation for her required, three-part project. But it was more than just research. She was granted emancipation on April 12.
“My mother’s issue with substance abuse gave me an extreme realization that the life I was a part of would inevitably crash to the ground and take me down with it,” she said. “It gave me the realization that I needed to get out and be who I wanted to be rather than a product of the environment I grew up in.”
But rather than dwell on the past, she chooses to look to the future.
“Growing up around drugs, domestic violence, and while feeling obligated to be your mother’s mother, isn’t an easy thing to do. Being a little girl and growing up inside of a broken home without support and guidance was not an easy thing to do,” she told the judges. “Those years of my childhood I would soon try to erase. I’ve attempted to only leave space for the good times to reminisce upon because, truth be told, it is easier to forgive and to become optimistic than it is to hold resentment and anger towards someone.”
At the beginning of her senior year, Clark’s friend, McKenna Bacon, invited her home. It wasn’t long until Bacon’s mother, Kim Riggs, made Clark part of the family.
Others also have helped along the way.
Volunteer Attorneys of Rural Nevada provided her the legal help she needed to go through the process.
The Carson City Health Department gave her physicals and the vaccinations necessary to return to Carson High School. Redrock Dental’s Drew Robison, through the Northern Nevada Dental Association, did about $3,000 worth of pro bono dental work.
Carson Toyota hired her to work full-time as a receptionist.
Soroptimist member Loretta Roche adopted Clark for Christmas and has offered to pay for a class next year at Western Nevada College, where she plans to begin pursuing a career in nutrition.
Riggs served as Clark’s mentor on the senior project and helped her through the lengthy and complicated process of terminating guardianship.
“Throughout this experience, I was entirely ready and willing to put up my white flag and surrender, however, you pushed me to believe that giving up on myself and my future was no longer an option I was able to choose,” Clark wrote in a thank you letter to Riggs as part of the project. “Against all odds, you’ve helped me conquer an uphill battle. You pushed me to believe in myself.”
And that faith in herself has led her to this point, a goal she had once given up on.
“As I count down the days until I walk across the stage to finally receive my high school diploma, I can’t help but to be ecstatic,” she said.