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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

‘She is the reason I was able to do it:’ Amid Loss, HiSet Graduate Finds Support System

Danayzah Esposito, a 20-year-old recent graduate of Catholic Charities Boston’s HiSET program in Lynn, lost her beloved daughter, Jasely, earlier this month to medical complications.

At three years old, with big hazel eyes and a contagious gap-toothed smile, Jasely was a bright light who loved playing chef, watching Peppa Pig, and being with her family. Though her life was cut short, Danayzah says the impact her daughter leaves behind is insurmountable.

“My number one goal was for my daughter to see me graduate from the HiSET program,” said Danayzah. “She is the reason I was able to do it.”

When Danayzah became pregnant with Jasely at 16, she quickly shifted her focus from schoolwork and socializing to preparing for the uncharted waters of motherhood.

Danayzah dropped out of school shortly after Jasely was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and Dandy-Walker syndrome, a neurological condition that affects the development of the cerebellum.

“My daughter was a high-risk baby. I had no choice but to stop going to class,” she said.

However, as time went on Danayzah felt increasingly called to go back someday and earn her high school degree.

Discovering Catholic Charities North’s HiSET program in Lynn was a blessing, Danayzah said, not only opening new doors for her but also leading her to find strong role models and mentors, including Colleen Caro, Case Manager Supervisor at CC North, who constantly reminded her of her inherent strength and potential.

“She always understands what I have going on,” said Danayzah. “She helped encourage me to get to class and sign up for the exam. She would meet with me over Zoom and was always sending me Catholic Charities resources.”

Even outside of classroom settings, Danayzah said Colleen was a steadfast companion, frequently providing her with gift cards to purchase diapers and always ensuring she had sufficient basic needs items.

“I knew if I built a strong relationship with her and showed her that I believed in her, she would grow to believe in herself,” said Colleen. “It’s a team effort here at Catholic Charities. I was also a young single mother too who didn’t have HiSET when my son was born, but I wanted her to know that it’s possible.”

Danayzah’s HiSET instructor Bob Connolly also became an impactful mentor to her, not only tutoring her on the course material but also consistently checking in on how she was doing and making sure she felt supported.

The HiSET program did not come without its challenges, however. Danayzah said she failed the math portion of the exam three times before she passed. On top of trying to study, she was working part-time while caring for both Jasely and her 8-month-old son.

“Colleen never gave up on me,” she said. “She always said, ‘Keep trying. It can never hurt to try.’”

This December, after months of hard work, Danayzah passed the HiSET exam, receiving her highest score yet on the math portion.

“The math section is the hardest of all five tests, and most students do struggle,” said Colleen. “Danayzah continued to come back for tutoring and remained consistent. She is a true testament of what you can achieve by just believing in yourself.”

Today, Danayzah is working part-time as a home health aide and hopes to soon apply to North Shore Community College’s Certified Nursing Assistant program to further her career in health care.

Despite the heartbreak that this year has brought, Danayzah remains hopeful for what life has in store – the joyful memories of her daughter a constant reminder that life is to be cherished, and she is never alone.

To learn more about how you can make a difference and support Catholic Charities clients in need, visit our Ways to Give page.

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