Jasmine, her three brothers and her mother moved into A Community of Friends’ Vista Nueva apartments in 2011, breaking her family’s cycle of chronic homelessness. “We used to live in a shelter,” said Jasmine. “We’d have to be up by 5 a.m. and out by 8 a.m.

During those summers, I remember my mom and I would walk all day with my brother Johnny in a stroller, roaming around until we could go back.”

Jasmine attributes her ability to change her life to having a permanent home. She is thankful to A Community of Friends for making that possible.

When she started high school, Jasmine struggled academically. When a classmate suggested she check out The Shakespeare Center, she thought, “I didn’t know anything about acting; I had never been in a play…so I took a risk and auditioned. I ended up loving it. It’s an acting job – you get paid to be in a Shakespeare show — and it’s really fun.” Jasmine agreed that Shakespeare changed her life. Her grades improved, she became more focused, more engaged.

VistaNueva“I think I needed a push, I guess, to do better. I know I’m smart deep down, but I never had motivation to live outside what I was used to,” Jasmine said. “It took my boss and my cast mates believing in me for me to believe in myself. I saw people all around me who dropped out of high school and I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to do something.”

Jasmine will be featured in a short documentary, The Overcomers, airing on PBS this October, a joint project with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, World Channel and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s digital series, American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen.

EmmaKohutWith the high school dropout epidemic, this series tells the stories of high school students who graduate against all odds. In fact, despite her unstable family history, Jasmine graduated high school and will attend California State University Northridge (CSUN) and intends to major in creative writing and minor in theater. She hopes to pave a new way for her younger brother, Johnny.

By Emma Kohut