Facing adversity that caused her to fall behind academically, Jamaya London did not let that stop her from pursuing a dream – earning and receiving a high school diploma.
After tirelessly working through Tullahoma City Schools’ Credit Recovery Program, Jamaya has achieved that goal. Come Friday night, Jamaya will hear her name called, as she is one of 251 seniors who will be receiving a diploma when Tullahoma High School holds its graduation ceremony at Wilkins Stadium.
“I’m so excited that this is happening,” Jamaya said. “This has been a big dream of mine and something that I had wanted to do. There are a lot of people who were holding me accountable to make this happen. I kept promising them that I would follow through on this goal because this is one promise that I wanted to keep.”
The road to Friday night has been full of uphill battles for Jamaya and her family. When she was just 12 years old, the Londons faced tragedy when Jamaya’s 9-year-old younger brother, James, unexpectedly died from a severe asthma attack.
Two years later, Jamaya was hospitalized after a lumbar puncture left her partially paralyzed. During that period, Jamaya saw her freshman and sophomore years interrupted as she was forced to learn how to walk again before returning to school.
Last year, Jamaya became a mother, giving birth to her son, Cayson. The London family then endured another tragedy, as Jamaya’s older brother, Trevor Murray, died at the age of 25.
Not long after, Jamaya was arrested following a heated argument with her younger sister. She spent five days in jail before the charges were dismissed; however, she called her experience nothing short of eye-opening and made her want to pursue this diploma even further. She wants to show people that they can achieve their dreams amid challenging times.
Heading into her senior year of high school, Jamaya was told that she needed to complete 18 courses to obtain her high school diploma. According to Jamaya and her mother, Tabitha, there were many sleepless nights throughout this school year. Still, the hard work, commitment, and dedication paid off. She is elated to walk across the stage during Friday’s graduation ceremony and celebrate with her family, particularly her son.
“You really have to put your all into being a mom,” Jamaya said. “A lot of times, I would slack with school and put Cayson first. My mom reminded me that I couldn’t do as much for him without school and a diploma. Being able to graduate is just as much a family goal as it is a personal one for me. I’m so thankful that my family has been so supportive so I could make this happen.”
While Jamaya was headstrong in accomplishing this goal, she said at times she needed that extra boost to keep her motivated. Over the last two years, Jamaya noted that her teacher Julee Kemp and counselor Susie Young both played valuable roles in ensuring that she stayed focused so she could earn her high school diploma.
“Ms. Kemp stayed on me,” Jamaya said. “She would blow up my phone asking me questions, and I have to thank her for that. Ms. Young has also really helped me. She called me into her office several times to talk about graduation. In our last conversation, Ms. Young said that I had 12 classes to pass before I graduate, and the deadline was May 6. My mom and I set a goal to make that deadline. On May 2, I did it; I finished all of the courses.”
While Jamaya thanked her teacher for aiding her along the way, Kemp stated that she has enjoyed getting to be part of the journey. According to Kemp, it has been joyous watching Jamaya reach a dream.
“I’ve seen firsthand all of the personal, physical, and academic struggles and challenges she has had to navigate during this time,” Kemp said. “Through it all, she has told me, ‘Ms. Kemp, I’m going to do this; I’m going to graduate.’ Seeing her reach this goal and knowing she will walk on Friday makes my heart swell with pride at her accomplishments. She has really set an example for all students to show what they are capable of when facing adversity. She has surely been an inspiration to me and others along the way.”
As graduation day gets closer, Jamaya’s mother said she cannot wait for her oldest daughter’s name to be announced. Once that happens, Tabitha plans to scream as loud as possible and cheer for her daughter.
“There are just no words to tell you how excited I am,” Tabitha said. “I knew that Jamaya could do it, and I believed she could do it. Eighteen classes is a lot. She had obstacles that she had to overcome, so it was rough. I think our faith is what helped carry us all through this. She prayed, trusted and believed, and she has succeeded.”
Ahead of Friday, TCS Director of Schools, Dr. Catherine Stephens, has had the opportunity to meet several students in this year’s graduating class. A little over a week before graduation, Dr. Stephens was introduced to Jamaya, learned her story and will be beyond thrilled to shake her hand during the ceremony this Friday night.
“I recently met Jamaya and heard her story. The work she has put in to get to this point is incredible,” Dr. Stephens said. “Her desire to achieve this goal and the determination and grit she displayed should be commended. Jamaya’s accomplishments are realized through her effort and a team of folks supporting her, including teachers, counselors, administrators and family. I cannot wait to congratulate Jamaya when she walks across that stage as she becomes a THS graduate.”
The Tullahoma High School graduation ceremony is scheduled to take place at Wilkins Stadium on Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m.