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When they needed it most, schools rallied around her family

Keontashia Purifoy is a senior at Providence Cristo Rey High School.
Keontashia Purifoy is a senior at Providence Cristo Rey High School.
Scott Elliott

Chalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

Keontashia Purifoy is a senior at Providence Cristo Rey High School, a unique Catholic school on the West side built around student work-study experiences. Each student is paired with a partner employer and splits time between classes and a job, which helps pay tuition. We talked with Keontashia at the school’s Draft Day event to start the school year.

I went to KIPP charter school. We had a shadow day here. When I learned about the corporate work-study, I was like, “I think I might like this school.” When I came here I was like, “I think I’m going to stay here. I like this school.”

Freshman year I worked at Marian University in the admissions office. Sophomore and junior year, I worked in sales and marketing United Healthcare. This year, I will work at the state treasurer’s office.

I was at my work-study job last year and I had just gotten on the bus to come back to school and my mom called and she just told me to go to my auntie’s house. I didn’t know what was going on. She called me again when I got to school. I was with my teachers when she called again and said, “I wanted to tell you this before you saw it anywhere else. The house caught on fire. We lost all the pets. You don’t have anything but what you have on.” I just broke down. I told everyone around me what happened.

At the school, they helped us. They gave us $300 in gift cards for food and clothes. They gave us new uniforms. My brother’s school gave him new uniforms. My cousin’s school gave him new uniforms and helped us with food. There were seven people living in the house: my family, my grandma and my auntie’s family. We had a dog, two cats and four kittens. We stayed at an aunt’s place at first. There were 13 of us in one four-bedroom apartment.

My grandmother works at Embassy Suites so they gave us a hotel room on the east side where we lived for about a month. Then my mom was able to actually buy a house right across the street from the house that caught on fire. They had to take out all the inside walls of the old house and rebuild it. My grandma moved back in.

From all this I learned that our schools were really there for us. They helped us with everything. A lot of our friends and their parents helped us, too.

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