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Local Student Finds Future at Alternative School

Elizabeth Anna Valla, Columbus Telegram

This ​story is written by Elizabeth Anna Valla of the Columbus Telegram . It was posted May 4, 2016 on

Yesenia Encarnacion sees a positive future for herself, but that wasn't always the case.

Being the third youngest of six siblings, it’s always been in the back of her mind that while some of her brothers and sisters graduated from high school, some didn't.

The biggest demon she began to fight was not knowing which category she was going to fall under.

Things weren't looking good for a while.

“I didn’t like being at school and I didn’t like (where I was),” Encarnacion said. “It was annoying more than anything.”

After getting into a fight at Lakeview High School halfway through the 2014 school year, she was taken to the office where district officials found a knife in her backpack.

With the school’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons, she was immediately expelled.

“I knew I wasn’t going to last there,” said Encarnacion, who had already transferred from Schuyler Central High School.

If she wanted to finish school, her next option was Youth for Christ’s alternative education program, Out of School Suspicion, which is offered to students for a variety of reasons.

But once again, her attitude landed her in hot water when she refused to do her “boring” schoolwork.

Susan Uhl, director of the Boys Town Day School in Duncan, remembers the day Encarnacion showed up at the school.

“I was like, ‘Oh heavens, I don’t know about this girl,’” Uhl said.

She knew Encarnacion's attitude was going to cause issues.

This was either going to be Encarnacion’s third strike or her saving grace. It was up to her.

Her biggest pet peeve was having to interact with other girls, so this school was perfect with the male-to-female ratio being five to one. And another plus, Encarnacion was the only girl in her grade. She was getting exactly what she wanted — left alone.

Uhl said Encarnacion has done a 180 since she arrived at the Day School.

“She’s made the most progress out of any of our students,” Uhl said. “She’s much more pleasant to be around, much more personable and willing to step out of her comfort zone and socialize.”

Now Encarnacion can look back and laugh at how dumb her past self was acting, but she also wants others to know it’s all about keeping your mind set on your goal.

“Agree to disagree,” she said, advising others to just keep their mouths shut. “It’s just easier for everyone that way.”

Uhl credits the Duncan school's courses for keeping students like Encarnacion engaged and motivated.

“We sit them down, say, ‘Finish this, this and this and you can be done,'" Uhl said. “That was a pretty big deal to (Encarnacion).”

Encarnacion said she likes the way the school doesn’t drag out classes and makes it clear what needs to be done. This allows her to schedule around a job at Wal-Mart.

When Encarnacion found out how many credit hours she needed to graduate, she hit the books right away, bound to be one of the siblings who graduates.

“There was a time when I thought I’d never finish school,” Encarnacion said.

With only a couple of weeks left in the school year, Encarnacion is counting down the days until she reaches her goal — graduation.

After graduation on May 15, Encarnacion plans to join the Army, something Uhl says fits perfectly with her new attitude and personality.