Florence High School
“Last year, a young woman literally bounced into my Advanced Placement Language and Composition class. She was so energetic, bright and happy. She lit up the classroom. Other students gravitated to her because she infected them with her optimism and her sheer joie de vivre. I remember wondering what kind of happy home this child had grown up in to be so confident and joyful…”
So began the nomination letter from Florence High School teacher Dorlea Rikard for Josie Perry. Dorlea went on to describe her sad surprise when she learned the hardships Josie overcame to be the student and person she is today.
Josie was born to a mother battling substance abuse and mental illness issues. Josie experienced her mother’s absence as she attempted to complete multiple rehabilitation programs. Josie was placed in multiple foster homes until her father was given custody of her when she was 8 years old. Sadly, Josie’s father was battling his own substance abuse issues. He was arrested the next year for drug offenses.
After a short time with her grandmother, Josie was again placed into her mother’s custody. When Child Protective Services discovered that the household was without heat or running water, Josie was again removed from her mother’s custody. By this time, Josie’s sister was a very young adult. She was able to gain custody of Josie and brought her to live in Alabama.
Josie seized the opportunity to overcome the issues of her past. An excellent scholar, Josie is today the president of school’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America as well as the state secretary of the organization. She is vice-president of the Key Club and a member of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society. She is also a group leader for her school’s Peer Counseling Group.
To help the household with finances, Josie holds an almost full-time job in addition to her studies. She supports her community through volunteer work at a local animal shelter as well as a soup kitchen. Much of her volunteer time is spent working for the March of Dimes.
“Josie Perry is already a hero,” wrote Ms. Rikard. “She has stepped out of her background; she has held her head high; she has forged ahead, doing the difficult things to accomplish her goals.”
Florence High School principal Lynne Hice summed it up: “She is truly a living a testament to hope, kindness, and success.”