Photo by Rome City Schools
Greatness needs to be discovered from time to time, and it can hide in the abilities of a talented young lady who needed a setting suitable for uncovering what really makes her shine.
Jill Freeman, the daughter of Dr. Dixon and Cathy Freeman, found out that what seemed like a life left buried beneath the stress of what she could not accomplish would soon become the pressure she needed to become a precious jewel that is headed to the Big Apple for polishing.
This Young Wolf was once a student at Rome High School, and the large classes and crowded hallways were not always what inspired her to learn and grow educationally.
“High school was just not working out for me. I had been struggling a lot. There were so many students and I felt like I had a tough time getting to know my teachers,” Jill recalled. “It was hard for me because I had some challenges I was dealing with. With so many people, it just added to the stress of having a tough time with my studies.”
Naturally, Jill’s parents wanted others to see in her what they knew to be true about their daughter. She is a brilliant young lady, and her talents far exceed any challenges she faced while attending Rome High School. Lucky for them, Rome City Schools recognizes this fact about not only Jill, but many of their students who struggle with a conventional learning environment. And because of the system’s goal to graduate every student and prepare them for work or college, there was a place for Jill to discover what she can offer others around her.
That place is the Rome City Schools’ Phoenix Learning Center (PLC).
“When I arrived at the PLC, the teachers were really welcoming and the classes were small, which I liked immediately. Also, we only had classes four days a week. So, three-day weekends were really nice,” she smiled.
“I was very nervous and anxious coming in and I had struggled with issues in high school, so I was relieved that the PLC was so easy going. I could work at my own pace and I actually graduated earlier than expected. Being in a smaller environment and getting to know my teachers was very beneficial to me.”
Graduating early was impressive for someone who did not think they could make it through the high school experience early on, but she did not just make the grades while studying at Rome City’s PLC.
“I worked in broadcasting while I was enrolled in the PLC and we would put together weekly videos. In those videos, we would talk about the news for our school and different subjects involving education,” Jill said. “Ms. Teasley was my teacher for broadcasting and she actually helped me to decide what I wanted to do for a career. During my time in her broadcasting class, I learned so much about how to be creative. I have been accepted and I am attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City this fall and I will major in photography and video. Also, I can’t forget to mention Mr. Dunn. He is so funny and I always loved his class because he made us all feel so comfortable. And Mrs. Davis was our shoulder to cry on. She was always there when we needed her or when something was wrong.”
Not only did making friends in her broadcasting class bring Jill out of her shell and make social environments more manageable, her video team won National Alternative Education awards at the state and national level for a video they created titled: “See Us Rise Toward Our Destiny.” This short film detailed the journey students take while attending classes at PLC, and Jill helped to produce and was featured in the production.
“Before coming to this school, I would not have been able to give an interview for this article. I have been able to really find out what I can be good at and it is all because of the teachers here at the PLC,” Jill said. “I want other kids like me to know that regular high school is not the only way. I want them to know there are alternatives, and they can still be successful if regular high school is not working out for them. I want to tell my teachers here and Mrs. (Jennifer) Perkins how much I appreciate their help. They have all really made this place a home for me.”
“As educators, we meet students we will always remember. I can honestly say that Jill is someone I will always remember and I have enjoyed the time we have had here with her,” said Jennifer Perkins, principal for the PLC. “I still remember the very first time I met her in my office with her mom and dad, and to see her transformation has been awesome. She and her achievements is what the PLC is all about and I am so glad to see her find out what her teachers knew all along.”