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Denisha Palmer: ‘This was the only place that was able to help me’  

July 6, 2021 | Jeffrey Good

Denisha Palmer: ‘This was the only place that was able to help me’ image

Math doesn’t come easily but, as Denisha Palmer can tell you, neither does life.

Two years ago, Denisha had finished her high school coursework and was eager to graduate. The only thing that stood between her and her diploma was a passing grade on Florida’s statewide math exam.

On the day she was to take the test, she went into labor with her daughter, Alani. Her daughter is 2 now, full of spunk and joy, and Denisha took that exam many times — coming up short each time by just a small margin. But she kept at it, with help from the educators at Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies.

“This,” she said recently while studying at the Central campus, “was the only place that was able to help me.”

The work paid off. In June, Denisha earned her high school diploma. She’s planning on a career in police work, perhaps the FBI.

Now 19, Denisha didn’t need a traditional high school program. Nor would she have had the time for one. She works nearly 50 hours a week at a fast food restaurant, helps her ailing mother around the house, and works to be the best possible mom for her precocious daughter.

What did a day in Denisha’s life look like as she was working toward her diploma? Something like this:

8 a.m.: Wake up with Alani, brush her teeth, make her oatmeal, work with her on an online math course for young children, then hope she settles in for a mid-morning nap so Mom can do some studying of her own.

Mid-morning to mid-afternoon: Take her mother to the grocery store and on errands, tidy up the house, then bundle Alani up to spend the afternoon with her aunt or sister.

3 p.m.-1:30 a.m.: Earn $9.25/hour working as a restaurant cashier. Come home make sure Alani’s tucked soundly into bed.

4-8 a.m. Try and get some sleep before the new day dawns and she begins again.

It was a grueling schedule, but she didn’t see any other way. She has dreams of becoming an FBI agent investigating people who abuse children, and she knew she needed a diploma to make a better life for herself and her daughter.

“I want to show her, no matter what life throws at her, don’t give up.”

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