Journey Livingston hasn’t taken the straightest path to graduation, but three years later than expected, she’s made it to the finish line at 21 years old.
Livingston will graduate this May from Mountain Education Charter School, but her high school career began at East Hall High School.
She struggled with math in the more conventional setting, and after failing the same class in both her sophomore and junior years decided it was time for a change.
“I had to find something where I could work on my own schedule, because I was already very far behind,” she said. “A friend of mine, her mom mentioned something about Mountain Ed. I looked into it and decided to give it a try.”
Class of 2020
The Times puts together this special senior recognition each year, highlighting a few standout stories from our local seniors, but this year we’ve added graduation lists from our local schools in an effort to honor as many graduates as we can. We hope you’re inspired by these stories and join us in celebrating the class of 2020. You can view these stories online as well as upcoming photo coverage of this year's graduation ceremonies.
Mountain Education is a school that allows students to work at their own pace and does not hand out failing grades. Instead, students can take as much time as they need to work their way into passing and eventually earning a high school diploma.
Livingston said the lenient schedule was exactly what she needed to succeed.
“You can do things at your own pace, so if you’re not understanding it, you can go back and look at it,” she said. “You don’t have to have it done by a certain time or a certain day. It's really just what you can get done in the moment.”
A flexible schedule also was important for Livingston, who has spent the last year and a half working full time as a server and bartender at Outback Steakhouse to support her father and fiance, who have both been living with her.
Livingston said her long hours often kept her at the restaurant late into the night, making it difficult to juggle work and school.
“I’m usually there pretty late,” she said. “So being able to do schoolwork whenever I could fit it in was very helpful.”
But whenever things got tough, knowing that her small family was depending on her was the ultimate motivation.
Whether it was an extra long shift at work or a particularly difficult test, Livingston said thoughts of her father and fiance helped to power her through tough times as she worked toward her diploma.
“When people depend on me, I can’t stop,” she said. “I can’t say I’ll do it later or I’ll get it done eventually. You have to do it, and you have to do it now. If you have the time to do it, you have to get it done. You can’t put it off and you can’t procrastinate.”
After graduation, Livingston said her next plan is to become a surgical technician — a goal she has discussed at length with her aunt who is a surgeon. Livingston hopes to attend North Georgia Nursing Academy, where she said she can earn a certification for her dream job in 48 to 56 weeks.
And while Livingston’s academic journey is far from over, she said she would never have made it this far without Mountain Education.
“I’ve gotten really close with a bunch of the people that work there, a lot of the teachers,” Livingston said. “They know me. They know my family. They know what I’ve been through. They’re just very supportive. I think it’s people that I’ll talk to for a very long time. I don’t think I would have ever been able to graduate without Mountain Education.”
Mountain Education Charter School graduating seniors
Daniela Sandoval Gutierrez