Never Take High School Graduation for Granted…
It’s Not So Easy For Many …..
Perseverance Pays Off!
Just ask Ella Kate Hobgood!

I am exhausted. I can only imagine how my second born Ella feels this morning as she is sleeping in for the first time in a long time. She finished all her credits for high school graduation last night. She had ½ a year of her Jr. Year and her Sr. year to complete. She had a very stressful Jr. year for both of us…piled on top of 13 (she was held back one year) years of constant battles, learning differences, processing issues, extreme ADD (never ADHD), genetic mutations we discovered that affect her ability to detox and 1 microdeletion on a chromosome that NO ONE knows about (only one research article on it when it was discovered), a hear loss we discovered in elementary school that she hates the hearing aid for, NUMEROUS tutors from private to nationwide organizations on top of therapists after therapist, bullying and anxiety at school and at work as well as trying every medication and supplement under the sun (one even created suicidal thoughts).

We were both told that there was no way she could graduate on time and would have to be in credit recovery all summer for a July graduation with the kids that didn’t make the cut off. I was heartbroken (maybe more so than Ella) for her. She was paralyzed and I kicked into overdrive with her teachers and the amazing Dr. Leigh Webb at Centennial High School. When I tell you that school stepped up with basically warrior patrol for this kid, I mean they pulled out all the stops and wouldn’t let her sneak out of school (yes, she tried) or give up (yes, she tried more than once)! She literally worked 12-15 hours a day the past 2 weeks in credit recovery. Seniors were out last week…Ella was the ONLY senior up there after 5 PM last night and her special education teacher came back after handing off her 4 kids to her husband and stayed the last 4 hours with Ella to finish economics. I got updates all night after Jackson and I had dropped 3 rounds of food off up there during the day. The 9oclock hour was rapidly approaching and she had 4 lessons to finish! The cut off was 9 PM…. I was panicked at home (while attempting to help J pack for moving to NYC this morning for 6 weeks). My phone was blowing up with my prayer warriors from all over praying, asking and cheering this kid on!! She got permission to keep going (it had already been 14 hours) and at exactly 10:40 PM I got a call from Ella!! She was practically screaming into the phone! SHE DID IT!! Both she and Mrs. O’Day were thrilled. I took a breath for the first time in a week it felt like.
I was waiting for her outside when she drove up. Those of you who know Ella, know that she has a flat affect. Not much makes her smile, laugh or get excited. The first words out of her mouth while walking up the yard with a grin as big as the Cheshire Cat were “Guess who is graduating high school”?!! I got a hug (they are not offered up easily with her) and fist bump that could be heard around the world!!! She sat on my bed and said another profound comment, “They said I couldn’t do it on time”. That comment led to a teaching moment on rising from the ashes and digging deep to find a strength that you never knew existed. I shared the times I was told “it can’t be done”. And I did it…she smiled. Her brother gave her the first graduation gift and apparently wrote something inspiring because she teared up.

This is a long post…I have learned so much about life from Ella Kate Hobgood. We have struggled together since she was in elementary school and I knew she was learning differently than other kids. I was told “she just marches to the beat of a different drummer”. By everyone from her father to providers in KY. I knew….and when a mother knows, they know! And come to find out, I was correct. The blog “Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer” shares that journey of learning what was making Ella tick differently than the herd! And when you don’t learn like the herd, you get left behind. And when you don’t have a parent fighting for you every step of the way, you get left behind. Which is exactly what happened when things imploded last year when she was a Junior. I took her to KY to move (after a year of discord between us as a single mother fighting for her and simply to survive) after a blow up here. She tanked. No one believed she needed guidance (apparently, the school counselor or someone said none of the testing here was accurate, there was “nothing” going on with Ella!!). As if they knew more than the Vanderbilt genetic MD, psychologists for testing, her pediatrician etc. I was told “You try to make something wrong with Ella”. By Christmas, she saw the writing on the wall and asked me one night if she could move back to TN. She was failing at life and miserable in KY (I know the feeling).
We started back at Centennial and it was uphill from there. Those teachers rallied around her and Dr. Webb supported her and created a team to watch and teach! This kid did the impossible the past few months. She got fed up, said “screw it” and left school several times, decided once she didn’t need my guidance (she found out that was incorrect 😊), and basically waited until the final hour to pull this all together! She quit her job at Home Depot on her own to focus on the last few weeks, Charlie at Hatcher Dairy (who has been like a dad to her the past 4 years) told her no more working the Farmers Market until you graduate High School!! Thank God for his wisdom and guidance. She adores him and he holds that kid accountable! Accountability…. something as parents we are called to do. That’s what we signed up for when we decided to create a child. I haven’t been a perfect parent, but these kids have had accountability, security, and someone fighting for them alone the past 10 years in Nashville.

Tomorrow…10:00 AM Allen Arena at Lipscomb University, Ella Kate Hobgood walks across that stage to receive her HARD-EARNED HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA!! I was proud when Jackson walked across the same stage. This time I am even more amazed at the children I have raised! I raised them to be held accountable and there are consequences for your ACTIONS or LACK of them in this case. She rallied, dug deep and has a pride now that no one can ever take away. I have learned more about life and humanity from this kid than I have from anyone else. We despise each other oftentimes, we adore each other more, we look at each other daily with a perplexed look about how we got paired up as mother and daughter! I have had 15 years of single mothering with these 2 and only a single parent can ever know what a toll that takes on your nerves, patience and overall health. I have survived it, and so have they. They know who has their back and who held their feet to the fire until it hurt!
I don’t know what the future holds for Ella or any of us. She plans to attend Columbia State this fall and wants to be a social worker. She will be amazing at that. My hope is she finds her path, her tribe of community that become her roots and her support system, she finds a closer walk with the one who made her life possible, Jesus. And that she takes this not so great high school experience and shares her story of perseverance with others. She isn’t the first and won’t the last child to be bullied, picked on, have trouble learning like the heard, suffer from anxiety in the halls etc. But, she just may be able to help someone in the future. And tell them I SURVIVED…and YOU WILL ALSO!! She posted a video yesterday on Facebook of what happens to the valedictorians of classes. I was amazed at her insight into herself and what really matters in life is PASSION!

She can take pride in knowing that she was the LAST one up there at 10:45 on the last day to turn in grades….and she just like the valedictorian, will have a High School Diploma!! No one will care if it was a 4.0 or a 1.0…. a diploma is a diploma! And she is off to do amazing things. Watch out world, Ella Kate Hobgood is coming for you!! And I personally can’t wait to see how she changes the world!