BROOKSVILLE — When Hernando High School graduating senior Lakia Brown receives her diploma tonight, she will have completed a long and complicated journey from early childhood.
"As a young person," noted guidance counselor Janice Greene, "she had all these interruptions in her life."
Most of them were family issues well beyond her control as a child. But as she matured, she found positive directions for her life. Through hard work and dedication, she succeeded.
Her hardships began when she was about 4 years old and her mother, Dionne Wright, was diagnosed with a brain aneurism.
Lakia, now 17, recalls being with her mother after she came home from a nursing home where she had relearned basic life skills and living in an apartment that had been outfitted for the disabled.
While her mother could manage in many ways, Lakia, who was then in first grade, was expected to deal with emergencies.
"I knew what she needed," Lakia recalled.
When Lakia was 11 and in seventh grade, she and her mother were evicted from their apartment. Lakia joined her sister, De'Ja Wright, at the home of their grandmother, Emma Frazier.
Lakia's father, Terrance Brown, tried to persuade Lakia to move to Tampa and live with him, but she was comfortable in Brooksville. She opted to stay with her grandmother, but her father remains a big part of her life.
Her brother, Keenan Hamilton, 14, was adopted as a baby by his great aunt, Mae Lois Hamilton, and her husband, Lorenzo Hamilton.
Things were stable until Emma Frazier died when Lakia was 12.
"That really hit me hard," she said. "It hurt my spirit. She was my favorite person in the world."
Lakia and her sister now live with their aunt, Alice Gary.
In middle school, Lakia began running track, which she continued into high school.
However, a common misery of youth came along to complicate her stability. "A boy came into my life," Lakia said.
"She was irrational over this boy," Greene recalled.
In 10th grade, Lakia got into trouble fighting with other girls over him. "My GPA dropped from a 3.0 to a 2.6," she said. Eventually he ended up transferring to another school and "that's when I got back on track," she said.
During these trying times, Lakia developed her relationship with Greene, who told her about an online virtual school for grade forgiveness. Lakia took advantage of the opportunity and retook biology, geometry, Spanish and English classes, raising those grades.
She made the cheerleading squad, which gave her added motivation.
"In order to be on the cheerleading team," Lakia said, "you have to be a leader and role model and keep your grades up."
She had to attend classes regularly and avoid discipline write-ups.
Lakia began to flourish and as a senior, she was selected to be on the homecoming court. Her family was proud and everyone chipped in to outfit her.
"My dad, too," she said.
Lakia will graduate with a 3.0 grade point average and plans to begin college at either Santa Fe College in Gainesville or Florida A & M University in Tallahassee. She intends to major in business and perhaps go into criminal law.
Greene said she knew Lakia would succeed.
"The last couple of years, she's worked real hard to get those grades up," she said. "And I'm just proud of her."