Student with troubled past now seen as a ‘hero’ | TheUnion.com
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Student with troubled past now seen as a ‘hero’

Growing up is hard enough for teens. Overcoming addiction at the same time is worse.

But many students at the Park Avenue alternative education sites in Grass Valley know what the experience is like.

Chelsea Silva, 18, is one of them.



She was expelled from three local high schools for problems related to drugs and alcohol but now is free of addiction. Her ambition is to be a high school history teacher one day. And she’s working already as an instructional aide at Earle Jamieson High School on McCourtney Road and is ready to graduate next month.

“Doing drugs and alcohol, you don’t realize how it changes you – not just your looks, but also your mind,” Silva said. “It chips away at everything you are. Nobody was meant to be a drug addict.”




Jamieson School is an alternative education site catering to kids who’ve been involved in drugs or have had serious behavioral problems, said Jim Hinman, teacher and on-site administrator of the school.

A recent survey showed 96 percent of Earle Jamieson students are involved in drugs, 55 percent are on probation, 12 percent are homeless, 17 percent are on expulsion and 100 percent have behavioral problems, Hinman said.

“There were a lot of things going on in my life and in my head that I didn’t realize was going on,” Silva said about her troubled freshman and sophomore years. “I didn’t really grow up with my father; he had another family. My parents divorced when I was 2, and he ended up getting married when I was 4. I was really jealous that they could be with Dad while I couldn’t.”

Silva is the oldest sister and the fourth child in a family of six children. She confesses she had once given her mother “the most trouble.” But her mother’s unconditional love was the greatest motivation for Silva to overcome her addiction, Silva said.

Silva also credits her boyfriend for “showing me a new way of life, something that could be cool.”

“It was definitely a reality check to go out in the world, leaving school, moving away from home, finding a car and getting a job that pays enough for you to have a place for yourself,” said Silva, who’s been employed at her school since October. “You take everything for granted when you are in school – your teachers, your mom. You don’t realize how lucky you are.”

Silva wants to take English and math classes at Sierra College before transferring to California State University, Chico.

“Chelsea is such a great kid,” Hinman said. “How often do you see a kid from her background being dedicated enough to come back and work with the same troubled kids? She’s really a hero for us.”

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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