Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blake High student stages a senior year turnaround

Rodrionna Harris, 18, vexed her family but now has made them proud, as she will receive a diploma from Blake High.

Courtesy of Rodrionna Harris

Rodrionna Harris, 18, vexed her family but now has made them proud, as she will receive a diploma from Blake High.

TAMPA

For some students, things fall apart for no reason at all. • Rodrionna Harris, 18, says she was just lazy. She slipped out the side door of her high school after attendance most days for the first three years. She spent her days at the mall or watching TV with friends. • A day before her senior year at Blake High School, she met with a guidance counselor in the school library. • She was worried that she wouldn't start the year as a senior. Her troubles went beyond that. She had collected just 9.5 credits toward a high school diploma, and her GPA was 1.3. • Things didn't look good, the counselor said.

She needed 14.5 more credits, including four English and four math classes.

Her options: a dropout prevention program or a GED track.

Nicole Posante told her daughter she wouldn't graduate. Posante wanted her to enroll in the dropout prevention program.

There was a final option, the counselor said. Pack her school day and spend her evenings and weekends online in the Florida Virtual School.

Harris wanted to walk across a stage to get her diploma.

She would make up the classes, she told her mother, if only to prove her wrong.

Rodrionna had been a good kid before high school, her parents said. She was a straight A student at the law magnet at Franklin Middle School and enrolled in all the extracurricular programs and had planned to be a lawyer.

But in ninth grade, she wanted to be a cool kid. Too cool for school.

Every other week she had an in-school suspension, she said. Her parents didn't know she was falling behind until the end of her sophomore year.

Her father had a hunch something wasn't right.

But she continued to struggle through her junior year. She fought with her mother. Her father pulled back his affection. He wanted her to see what she was giving up.

She was selfish in those years, she said. But seeing her family's disappointment caused a change of heart.

"I know I have let my parents down," she said. Family is important to Rodrionna, she said. She has two younger sisters and an aunt and grandmother who have always believed in her.

"When your grandmother gives you that look — it's a look you can't even describe."

Her mother was at her wits' end, but her father never gave up on her.

"She has my heart," said Julio Douglas. "She's like my daughter and my friend. I told her you can do it. You can turn this around."

That day last August, she enrolled in honors classes and throughout the school year, every two weeks, she met with her guidance counselor, Daniel Driscoll, to assess her progress. At first Driscoll thought she would be a challenge. But she followed through every step. She took core classes instead of electives and studied an hour and a half every night and all day on the weekends. She took her laptop to church and studied in the back pew.

She raised her GPA to 2.25, and expects it to be higher when final grades are done. She plans to go to Bethune-Cookman University and one day be an FBI agent.

In a speech nominating her for the school district's Turnaround Achievement Awards, Driscoll wrote:

"As we all know, one of the most difficult aspects of being an educator is that we often do not see the end product like other occupations enjoy. We don't get to drive by and tell our kids, 'I helped build that house.' Or 'I helped start that company.' Rodrionna has given me a glimpse of what that final product will be. She will be a success."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

Blake High student stages a senior year turnaround 06/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 2:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.