Cassandra (Cassie) Hursey was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived in Westwood since she was seven. Early on, she found it difficult to learn and struggled with bullying in school. Cassie tried online school, but it was not a good fit. According to Cassie, her home life was not comforting or supportive, which made getting online school work completed very difficult. Cassie was ready to give up, but she knew she needed an education to move forward. “High school isn’t for everyone, and it was not for me. I tried over and over again, and I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. Santa Maria gave me the opportunity to get an education and feel accepted and I am so grateful for that,” Cassie said. So, she decided to drop out of online school and enroll in Santa Maria’s High School Equivalency (HSE) program.
Cassie also enrolled in Santa Maria’s Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) in August 2020. Through that program, Cassie was able to be enrolled in the Avenues to Success program. Avenues to Success allows youth to earn gift cards for maintaining employment for a specified number of hours over a certain number of days. Cassie was able to utilize this program through her work at LaRosa’s and later Walmart.
The road to success through the HSE program wasn’t always easy. Halfway through the program, Cassie suffered injuries in a car accident which delayed the process. Luckily, she recovered and returned to the program about a month and a half later. Santa Maria even helped her get another car.
Not only did Cassie graduate with her HSE in July, but she was named Student of the Year along with one other student! “This award is given to two students who show incredible determination and hard work throughout their time in the High School Equivalency Program,” said Cassie’s former workforce coach, Briana Blanchard.
Cassie didn’t always have a lot of support from her family, but when she came to Santa Maria she felt like she had the support of the Santa Maria family. Briana said, “Cassie is a strong and independent woman who is dedicated to her goals. She works hard and is determined to succeed. She has proven time and time again that she is reliable and incredibly smart. In her year with Santa Maria, she has successfully held her job, obtained a new vehicle, and worked to obtain her HSE, all before the age of 18.”
Cassie appreciates Briana’s support. “Briana has been a lovely addition to my life. She has helped with Avenues to Success, my HSE program, and even helped me get a car. She has always been an amazing support and I can always go to her if I need her,” said Cassie. She has been able to maintain stable and consistent employment with Briana’s help. While working toward her HSE, she was employed at LaRosa’s Pizza Kitchen for eleven months. That stint was followed by one with her current employer, Walmart, where she has worked for the last six months.
Cassie credits the Santa Maria Classroom team for her success. “I would not have been able to do this without them,” she said. Cassie is described by the team who has worked with her as “smart, savvy, and determined,” and those characteristics, her team said, have allowed her to pursue and achieve her career and educational goals. When asked about her inspirations in life, Cassie confidently replied, “I inspire me. I’m a perfectionist. I feel the need to be the very best at everything I do.”
Cassie thanks Santa Maria for setting her on a path to success. “I would not have pursued my HSE without Santa Maria,” Cassie said. She plans to continue down the path to success. Cassie has consistently proven that, with the right resources, hard work, and dedication, you can set realistic goals to better yourself and those around you, and then achieve them. The Santa Maria HSE team was so excited for the opportunity to see Cassie graduate at the July ceremony.
Cassie has been able to leverage her newfound education into a pay increase with her current employer! With the help of Santa Maria, she has maintained steady employment for over a year and a half, purchased her own car, and is now looking toward the future with higher education in mind. Cassie credits Santa Maria for giving her the chance at a better life, one she wouldn’t have had otherwise.
You can help young people like Cassie achieve great things in life by donating to Santa Maria’s programs. To donate, please visit SantaMaria-Cincy.org and click the donate button.