Tarra Gilbert

Three years ago, at age 16, Tarra Gilbert dropped out of school and quickly regretted the decision.

She had transferred to Greenwood Community High School from Indianapolis Public Schools and didn’t like it there. The classes were more difficult, and she wasn’t getting as much help as she needed from teachers, she said. Plus, as the oldest of six children, she felt a responsibility to help raise her siblings, she said.

She missed several days of classes, which eventually got her into trouble with the school. She left school, moved back in with her parents and got a job as a restaurant hostess.

But it wasn’t long before she regretted her decision. At the beginning of the next school year, she explored local alternative high school options. After a class catalog from The Crossing Educational Center came in the mail, she went in for an interview and enrolled.

Once at The Crossing, she immediately noticed a difference. The classes were smaller, the teachers were involved and supportive, and she was allowed to work at her own pace, while holding a job. She was able to balance school and work by attending The Crossing’s morning session and working later in the day, she said

“Now, as long as I know I need to get my work done, I can get it done as fast as I want,” Gilbert said. “It became easier for me to focus.”

Gilbert went from a 2.8 GPA all the way up to a 4.0. She stepped into a mentor role, helping fellow students with their lessons, as well as motivating her younger sister, who also now goes to school there. After graduation, Gilbert, now 19, plans to go to Ivy Tech Community College for a year and then transfer to University of Kentucky or University of Colorado for veterinary studies.

“My family was really disappointed when I dropped out,” Gilbert said. “So they were my main motivation to go back to school and get my diploma. Now that my graduation is coming up, they’re really excited. They literally invited everybody they know.”

Tarra Gilbert

Name: Tarra Gilbert

Age: 19

School:The Crossing Educational Center-Johnson County

Lives In: Greenwood

Post-graduation plans: Attend Ivy Tech Community College for a year, then transfer to University of Kentucky or University of Colorado for veterinary studies.