A Georgia woman who wanted to educate disadvantaged youth, ended up welcoming two troubled minors into her family.
Chelsea Haley devoted some time to teaching a fourth-grade class through the Teach for America program in Baton Rouge, 81 miles northwest of New Orleans. The 26 year-old was a recent college graduate and choose to work for schools in low-income areas.
Haley is very passionate about her work, spending well over the minimum six hours each day on helping students achieve their full potential.
One of her great success stories is Jerome. The 12 year-old was regularly suspended, suffered poor grades, and lived in poverty with his mother and a grandparent. The student struggled after experiencing two deaths in the family.
“It was really hard on [Jerome’s mother] after she lost her husband,” Haley said according to ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It was just a combination of tragedy coupled with the other social situations you face when you live in poverty.”
Haley did everything she could to help give her students the best possible chance of success.
“After exhausting all of my resources in the classroom, I realized the only way to reach Jerome was to get to know him and just build a relationship,” she said according to Shareably. “I started spending a lot of time with him outside of school, going to his football games, his basketball games, just hanging out with him at home, buying school supplies and groceries–all those kinds of things.”
However, the adolescent’s unhealthy living environment continued to foster a rebellious attitude towards study.
“There were still days in the classroom when he made me want to rip my hair out,” she said according to the publication. “I knew that underneath that tough-guy appearance, there was just a young kid asking to be loved.”
Haley had a dream in which she spoke with God, who asked her to be Jerome’s foster mother. The next day while she watched him study, she felt a sense of serenity wash over her. The teen suddenly glanced up at her and asked if he could live with his teacher.
The educator invited Jerome’s mother to dinner, explaining she planned to return to her home state of Georgia. Much to her surprise the mother asked Haley to take the two boys with her.
“You can go back,” Jerome’s mother said. “I want you to take Jerome and Jace with you.”
The educator eventually realized the adolescent needs more than just academic help, and offered to adopt Jerome and his newborn brother, Jace.
About a year after meeting them, Haley was awarded full custody of the brothers. She emptied out almost all of her savings to help them out. She lived on credit cards and postponed repaying college debt for several years. The teacher has no regrets.
“It was all worth it,” she said according to “Good Morning America.” “Being their mom is the greatest blessing of my life, I get to wake up in the morning and love two little guys.”
Haley worked hard to settle her debts. She accepted after-school tutoring jobs, moved in with her parents, and even delivered groceries for extra money.
She learned how to parent Jerome and Jace, cooking for them and cheering them on at football games. It took five years for her to full repay debts totalling about $50,000.
“At 24-years-old, she wiped out her savings to adopt us as a single mom,” Jerome said on a placard he was photographed holding.
Jace is also pictured standing next to Haley who holds up a sign that reads, “Today, at 29 years-old, she has officially paid off $48,683.41 and is debt free.”
Chelsea plans to buy a house and save her extra money for the boys’s college tuition. She revealed her secret of success was prioritizing bills, beginning with the highest interest rates first.
“You will have a lot more freedom once it is paid off,” she said according to the broadcaster.
All of them are doing well in Marietta, Georgia, where the family now resides. Jerome is no longer a problem child, and has twice been named on the honor roll.
“I never thought I would be a single mom at age 24, especially of two boys, one of which was my 12 year-old student, and the other one who was only a year and a half,” she said. “I would not trade this for anything.”