When Jainay Lockett-Rhodes showed up at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday for Fred Moore High School’s graduation, few people in the drive-in audience knew what a long road she’d conquered to graduate.
Lockett-Rhodes, who turns 18 in June, has spent more than six years in foster care, most recently as a resident of Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home in Denton.
For Lockett-Rhodes, graduating from high school is as much a personal milestone as it is an opportunity to serve as a positive example to her peers.
She says she hopes other teens in foster care will be inspired to keep fighting to achieve what many do not.
According to the National Youth in Transition database, only 58% of youth in the U.S. who grow up in foster care graduate high school by age 19. By contrast their peers graduate at a rate of 87%.
“Not even I thought I would graduate for a while,” Lockett-Rhodes said. “But, if there is one thing I have learned it’s that I can be capable of anything if I stay positive and motivated.”
Lockett-Rhodes says receiving her diploma is an achievement no one will ever be able to take away.
“A lot of people think kids who live in foster care are worthless or less than, or not smart,” she said. “Some kids even believe that about themselves. When it comes to school it’s sometimes hard to see the point or understand why you should try so hard, when the world seems against you.”
The Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home represents Lockett-Rhodes’ seventh foster care placement.
When she arrived in 2018, she was part of Cumberland’s Treatment Services Program, which she successfully completed in 2019. She then transitioned to CPCH’s general residential program, which focuses more on life skills and preparing youth for life after foster care.
“Jainay is so resilient,” said Aja Moore, who serves as Lockett-Rhodes case manager at Cumberland. “I am so proud of her. Not only did she beat the statistics for children in foster care who graduated from high school, but she proved to herself that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Despite all the deep, dark and difficult things she has experienced, she finished on top, and is an example for all of us.”
During her time at Cumberland, Lockett-Rhodes says she is proud of her progress. She’s also pleased to have been instrumental in the agency’s decision to create a program that solicits birthday cards from the community for resident’s birthdays.
“Every birthday card that comes to Cumberland is part of what I did,” Lockett-Rhodes said. “That’s a good legacy.”
Lockett Rhodes says earning her diploma definitely a life-defining moment.
“This is just the beginning for me.”
To learn more about the programs and services of the Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, including how to get involved, visit cpch.org.