Hillsborough County Graduate Success Stories

Catapult Academy provides the support, tools, and life skills young people need in order to stay on track to graduation and success beyond high school. These two Hillsborough County students are determined to succeed.

Justin Welker, a 19-year-old, made a promise that changed his entire life. Justin Welker promised his great-grandmother that he would never put her in a nursing home. “She didn’t want to be there,” he said. “She did so much for me, I had to do this for her.”

In order to keep his promise, Welker had to drop out of Chamberlain High School in Tampa and work six days (40 hours) a week in order to keep the house she left him upon her passing.

However, there was still one promise left unfulfilled. “She always said she wanted to see me get my high school diploma.” Welker saw a Catapult Academy television commercial and realized this may be the opportunity he was waiting for. He enrolled in the program and worked hard in and outside of the classroom to earn his diploma, all while holding down a full-time job.

With his high school diploma now in his hands, Justin’s future is wide open. He plans on attending Hillsborough Community College in the fall.

Jianna Figueroa, a 19-year-old who thought she hit a dead-end, made a change for the better. Jianna did not always have the support she has now. “I was living on my own and working full time.”

Figueroa was desperate for a second chance and refused to give up. While working full time at McDonald’s, she enrolled at the new Catapult Academy across the street on Dale Mabry. Figueroa quickly found herself climbing up the ladder at work and in the classroom. After one year, Figueroa finished all of her remaining requirements in order to graduate and was named the Assistant Manager at McDonald’s.

“Don’t give up,” she said. “It may be tough at times but you need your high school diploma.” With success still on her mind and with a goal of becoming a pediatrician, Figueroa is moving on to post-secondary education. She will be attending Hillsborough Community College in the fall in order to earn her Associates Degree before moving on to a university. With the support from her family, she is excited for this new chapter in her life to begin!

See the success stories about our recent graduates below.