Tanisha Bradford has decided that this is her moment.
The 20-year-old mother sat down after an enrollment orientation for Camelot Excel Academy and explained that her life is less chaotic now.
Bradford dropped out of Abraham Lincoln High School five years ago, during her second attempt at 9th grade. She simply didn’t want to go to school anymore. “I wasn’t going to class, I wasn’t doing anything. I dropped out with zero credits,” she said.
Bradford described an environment at Lincoln where she could roam the halls and snag a cigarette whenever she wanted. “Certain schools need to really get it together. It’s like they don’t care. You go through the [metal detector] and it don’t beep? Okay, keep it moving,” she explained.
Students walked around Lincoln unnoticed, she said, some armed with the means and plans to hurt others. “Nobody wants to be around that.”
Camelot Excel Academy treats cell phones as weapons, locking them up when students arrive. Bradford thinks this policy would have prevented students at Lincoln from organizing group violence through text messages.
Classes failed to interest or challenge Bradford. “Kids want to like to come to school,” she said, blaming lackluster teachers and boring classes for her disengagement. “That’s how kids end up in the hallway—that’s how I ended up like that. That school could have done nothing to make me stay there.”
Bradford and her family relocated to North Carolina after she found out, at 15 years old, that she was pregnant. “My mom wanted a fresh start,” she said, “But nothing went as planned.”
Pregnancy offering new challenges, she stopped making the effort to catch the 5 a.m. bus for her new school. “I was lazy. I just couldn’t do it.”
Bradford’s family eventually moved back to Philadelphia where, in 2009, she gave school another shot, this time at Camelot Excel Academy South. But shortly after enrolling, Bradford dropped out again. This time she was derailed by lack of child care and transportation.
“South was a really good school,” she said. “They put it out there plain as day: Anytime you need help, you get it. … That’s why I decided to come back.”
Bradford has been working as a housekeeper in her spare time, saving money to get her life back in order.
Now, she said, “I have child care. I have a way to get back and forth to school. I have money [for] my uniform. So right now I’m gonna do it. I’m not gonna just keep sitting back. I know I can do it, so I want to do it.”
She realizes now that there are more options besides dropping out. “There are people out there that will help, that care. If you want it that bad, you will definitely find it - that’s how I did it,” she said.
She is determined to get her high school diploma in two years through Camelot’s accelerated program and continue her education at Community College of Philadelphia. Her dream: becoming a pediatrician.