Though it is always the goal, it is uncommon for a student to attend Grace Emmanuel School all the way from kindergarten to graduation.
Even with the provision of a free education, life in Haiti is still unsettled and sometimes nomadic—families move away to find work, kids are sent to live with extended family or friends who can better provide for them, teenagers drop out to find a job or have a baby, or students get stuck in grade levels and eventually give up.
GES from start to finish
Nephtalie, who will graduate this summer, is one exception to the rule.
Now 18 years old, Nephtalie began attending Grace Emmanuel School in 2006, at age 3. (It is customary in Haiti for kids to spend 3 years in kindergarten, followed by 9 years of primary school and 4 years of secondary school.)
Through all 16 grade levels, Nephtalie has never repeated a class.
“I always knew what I wanted, and that was to succeed, to never fail a grade level,” said Nephtalie. “Whatever you want to do, if you have the will, and you’re willing to make sacrifices, you’ll do it, no matter the difficulties.”
She is the youngest student in her class, and will become one of the youngest graduates in GES history. (The average age of a GES graduate is just shy of 22.)
Stability from Mom
Born to a single mom without a steady income, Nephtalie’s story could have been different.
She says her mom has told her countless times that if it wasn’t for Grace Emmanuel School, Nephtalie wouldn’t have gone to school. And, even if she had found a way to go, she would never have made it to her senior year by age 18.
Nephtalie’s mom says she has never stopped praising God for the free education she found for Nephtalie, and also for Rapha, her son who is in 6th grade. She is always praying for the school and asking God to bless the sponsors. She is thrilled to see her oldest child make it to her senior year.
Nephtalie recognizes that without the stability her mom has provided in her life, she wouldn’t have made it—free education or not.
“My mom is the first person I want to make proud,” she said. “All of my efforts have been for her before anyone else. That’s the only way I can say thanks for all that she has done for me.”
But Nephtalie doesn’t want just her mom to be proud of her. She wants her sponsor to be proud of her, too.
Support from Molly
In 2013, a high schooler named Molly felt led to support a student at GES after seeing first-hand the impact of sponsorship—both financially and relationally—while on a trip to Haiti with JiHM.
She began sponsoring Nephtalie, then a 5th grader, covering the monthly donation through her part-time job as a barista at Starbucks.
Molly had the opportunity to meet Nephtalie for the first time on a trip the following summer. “I got to meet her family and see her home,” she said, “which helped me to learn how to pray for her.”
Nephtalie had just turned 11, but even then Molly was impressed by her maturity—as well as her willingness to joke around with her so quickly. “She’s hilarious!” she recounted.
Though Molly hasn’t had the chance to visit Haiti in recent years, the two stay in touch through letters.
“I look forward to receiving Nephtalie’s letters and hearing how she is growing,” Molly said. “To get an update on her and her family’s health and safety during all that Haiti has gone through has brought peace and affirmation that prayers are being answered.”
“I don’t have the words to thank Molly or to express how grateful I am for all she’s done for me in school,” said Nephtalie. “I promise her I’ll continue to work hard to succeed on the final exams so she can be proud of me.”
For Molly, sponsoring Nephtalie hasn’t been as much about the results as about being faithful to God. “Throughout my life, I have learned that God has given us resources to live and share with one another,” she said. “I know that the school has prepared her well for what’s next in her life.”
Nephtalie’s next goal
Sixteen years at Grace Emmanuel School has shaped Nephtalie’s life. She says the top three things she has learned at GES are to love God, appreciate opportunities that are given to you (especially the ones you didn’t deserve), and to work hard to not waste any opportunity.
As she begins a new chapter, she asks for prayer for her family, for her sponsor, for the school, and for her success. Despite all that Nephtalie has already accomplished, she says it’s not really anything yet.
“I’m very proud of all the roads I’ve taken to get here,” she said, “and it gives me pleasure to see how happy my mom is. But this is just the beginning. After I get my final exam results, I am going to study education science so I can become the director of a school, and study psychology so I can help kids who are in need.”
We can’t wait to see what God has in store for this determined young woman. Well done, Nephtalie!