The last few years have been tough for Rachel Jeantel. After the death of her friend, Trayvon Martin, she not only had to serve as a witness at his shooter's trial, but she was also subjected to public criticism and ridicule. But the young woman refused to be held down, keeping a promise she made to Martin and continuing to achieve success.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and Jeantel's story is a perfect example of how true that is. The 20-year-old graduated from high school with the help of a team of individuals who offered their mentorship, advice and support, The Washington Post reports.
The Jeantel today is quite different from the girl the nation watched sitting on the witness stand during the George Zimmerman trial last summer. She is confident and self-assured, and ready to face new challenges.
After receiving an offer from radio host Tom Joyner for a full scholarship to any historically black college or university of her choice, an assessment determined she was in need of tutoring and mentorship that Joyner's foundation helped pay for.
With the help of Roderick Vereen, a local lawyer who helped coach the young woman through the trial and beyond, Karen Andre another lawyer and friend of Vereen's who offered her assistance after watching Jeantel on television, and a number of others, Rachel plowed through a jam-packed schedule with days that started at 4 a.m., and included intense tutoring, therapy and exercise.
"Me graduating is a big thing for the whole village, we did it," Jeantel said. "And I'm tremendously thankful for them, for all they've done for me."
Jeantel also had the support of Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton.
"She didn't give up and that goes to say a lot for her character and who she is," Fulton said. "And I'm glad my son Trayvon seen it in her, because she is truly a diamond in the rough."
Jeantel said she couldn't have gotten this far without Trayvon and added that this accomplishment is only the beginning.
"After we leave here it is back to work. College is the main thing, that's the next step," she said. "And I want that college degree."
Read the full feature on Jeantel's journey at The Washington Post.