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Gigi Harris never thought college was in her future

While living in Florida, she became pregnant with her firstborn daughter at age sixteen. She dropped out of the 10th grade shortly after finding out she was pregnant. Her daughter was born in March of 2000 at only 2 lbs. and 2 ounces, and spend the first months of her life in the NICU. Shortly after Gigi was able to take her daughter home from the hospital, her mother passed away, leaving Gigi without the support she so desperately needed.

Gigi HarrisA few years later, Gigi welcomed a son into the world. At only age 18, Gigi was the mom to two small children and working in fast food while trying to make a toxic relationship with the children’s father work. Gigi experienced Domestic Violence which then caused Child Protective Services to be involved in her life. She knew she needed a change so she moved from Daytona, Florida, to Tallahassee to be with her cousins. Unfortunately, things did not get better in Tallahassee and Gigi found herself homeless because she could not afford her apartment while working in fast food. She then moved to Orlando, Florida, to be with family and became pregnant again. While living in Orlando, she found herself in an abusive relationship again. She knew she needed a big change in her life. Her mother’s aunt, who lives in Spokane, Washington, told her she could come move to Spokane to try and start a new life.

So, in December 2017, Gigi and her two year old daughter boarded a plane to Spokane with no return ticket. Once in Spokane and settled in, Gigi went to DSHS to get cash and food assistance. Her Case Manager at DSHS suggested she look into getting her GED.

Gigi states she never even considered finishing school. “I never really saw myself going back to school. I never even considered it.” When she first enrolled in GED classes, she felt nervous and unsure. It is when she was offered a work-study position that she started to blossom and grow. “I finally saw myself as a student, as someone who could do this.” She was, as most students are, most nervous about completing her Math. She chipped away at all of the GED tests, saving Math for last. She was shocked when she passed it on the first try!

College then became a reality, and she was encouraged to apply for the Metallica scholarship. She couldn’t believe it was a real thing. “It relieved a big stress for me, it helped me in ways I didn’t know were possible,” she said. Gigi is excited to be one of the first Metallica students, but she is even more excited about her future. She said she can’t wait to provide a better future for her daughter. “Before, I never even thought there was a way for me to provide for her outside of fast food. I now see how wrong I was.”

Gigi’s advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation as she was in: “strive for the best. Believe in yourself and don’t ever, ever, give up.”