Inspirational senior defies issues, odds

Published Jun 18, 2018 at 4:00pm

“Perseverance” and “resourcefulness” are words that “go along with each other,” says Rome Free Academy senior Jasmine Finch.

She and RFA guidance counselor Maureen Nash feel those traits have helped her overcome a difficult and unstable family environment to succeed in school as she prepares to go on to college.

Having moved out of her home about a year ago to live with an older sister, then with a family friend, and now living with that sister again, Finch is deeply appreciative of help and direction from RFA staff including teachers and guidance counselors. She also had lived with an aunt in 2015.

Finch, who was eligible for aid under the federal McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act but noted she did not need to use all of it, said of her persevering that “no matter where you come from...you can make it through.” She cited the “resources...a public school can give you ....You always have these people” such as counselors, teachers, nurses, and librarians.

Among them, “everyone does their part to help not just me...lots of people,” Finch remarked. “You’re always going to be grateful for that.”

Finch has faced a “lot of turmoil” in her family complications including transient living arrangements, observed RFA guidance counselor Maureen Nash. Many students in Finch’s situation would have “dropped out in a heartbeat,” said Nash. Noting that such students do “not always reach out” for help from staff, she said Finch has been “always communicative, outgoing, and will share” information about her situation.

Finch is one of the most inspirational members of RFA’s Class of 2018, Nash said.

Finch, 18, of 425 W. Court St. where she lives with her sister Crystal Fowler, is the daughter of Barbara Cutler of Park Drive and Garrett Monnette who also is of Rome. She has five sisters, including three who are older than her, and a brother who is younger than her.

Finch had previously lived with her mother, whom she said had some personal problems and they had never had a good relationship. She “moved in with my sister” because she wanted to “get to a place” where it would be “easier for me to succeed.” Her relationship with her mom is “better now than we were before,” she added.

Finch will be the first person in her immediate family to go to college, adding that one sister tried some online college courses without completion while her mother took some courses but did not complete them.

Finch, whom Nash said will graduate in the top 40 percent of RFA’s Class of 2018, plans to go to Herkimer College where she will major in legal studies. After that, she plans to go to college for law school, and wants to be a lawyer; she would like to be a defense attorney.

Of being the first in her immediate family to go to college, Finch said it “means a lot to me” and “to my siblings.” They “wanted to see me grow...encouraged me....They always wanted me to grow up and do better than the standard.”

Finch said she had always been “good in school” and had done well. But “other things...can affect kids” and cause them to “lose their focus,” she remarked. Nash observed that if Finch had “a little more structured environment from the get-go,” she would have “an even better academic situation.”

Finch faced additional difficulties when her grandfather Edward Cutler, Sr. of Taberg passed away in October 2016. She was “really close with my grandpa,” and his illness while she was in 10th grade affected her schoolwork including geometry. She failed geometry, but retook it in 11th grade and passed, crediting the help of teacher Jessica Fanfarillo.

Among other RFA staff whose help has been especially important, said Finch, are Nash, business teacher Nancy Witter, and math teacher Dusty Shields. She said school social worker Courtney Spatto also assisted, including helping her get health insurance. In addition, Nash said Finch used an RFA clothing closet for students in need, and was able to take an AP (advanced placement) course with the help of funding through the local Front of the Class organization.

Witter and Nash also provided some rides when needed, and Finch has gotten a summer job with the City of Rome’s recreation department with help from Nash.

“I don’t know what I would have done without you guys,” Finch remarked to Nash.

At one time, said Finch, she had been “really negative” about her situation. But “now I feel...no matter the problem” or issue, she has “people by my side...plus I can help myself.” She credited “the people that I was around,” including Witter, Nash and her aunt Michelle Cutler.

They helped her get her “head on straight,” said Finch, and told her ‘’’you know you can succeed....You have to be positive about the future.’”

Finch is “very excited” about going to college and “can’t wait” to start a career.