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Major: psychology; planning to earn an A.A. from CLC and transfer to a four-year school.

Hometown: Waukegan, Ill.

High school: GED from CLC, 2015.

Interests and hobbies: Playing with my two daughters; helping them with their homework.

Da'jah Smith

I’m grateful for CLC because it changed me—and by allowing me to complete my GED and become a college student, the college has given me a second chance at life. In high school, I lost focus on schoolwork and dropped out in junior year.

My struggle was working low-paying jobs while raising two young daughters by myself. I wanted to give them a better life, so I decided at age 22 to get my GED. Without a high school diploma or a GED, you’re not very attractive in the job market. 

I earned my GED at the Lakeshore Campus, and one memorable teacher was Warren Thomas. He was my motivation. He tutored me in every subject, especially in math concepts ranging from fractions to decimals. He was amazing. If there was something that he couldn’t help me with, we’d find the answer together. When I felt like giving up, Warren was there to push me, giving me encouraging words. A lot of times, I didn’t believe in myself, and I didn’t see what Warren saw in me. I wouldn’t be here without him.

In 2015, when I walked up to receive my GED at the graduation ceremony, I cried because I was so happy. It was a breathtaking experience. My kids, who were age six and five at the time, were there—and they were just as happy as I was. To see them smiling at me, at Mommy’s graduation. . . I don’t have words to describe the feeling.

It makes me happy to see how many others are getting a GED at CLC. Many who drop out of high school, or are kicked out, don’t try to come back to finish. So when I see GED students at CLC, trying to change their own lives and make a difference for others, it warms my soul. 

As a CLC student, I’ve really enjoyed an introductory psychology class, which has inspired me to pursue a career as a psychologist. The course has been a fascinating look into the human mind and behavior. Now I want to be that person who can work in a counseling role and directly improve someone else’s life.

I’m already in a helping role in my current job as a youth mentor at the Youth Conservation Corps of Lake County. My duties include collecting donated coats, clothing, diapers, baby food and other supplies, and giving them to people who need them. I also help members find apartments and, when they are stressed, connect them with a counselor or social worker.

Earning the GED made me learn true meaning of patience. Success doesn’t come overnight, and it’s not handed to you. But if you work hard enough, you’ll get what you want in due time.