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Toughing it out through troubled times, she sets her sights on college

Senior finds stability -- and success -- in school


High school counselor Michelle Harper said Ivy Hackney “is not one to let obstacles stand in her way.”

We’ll say.

The soon-to-be East Grand Rapids graduate has certainly faced more than her share. And she’s come through it an “intelligent, independent and resilient” young woman, Harper wrote in a college recommendation letter. “Her high school years have proven she is capable of success (and) … I am positive she has a bright future.”

Before coming to the district, Ivy and her two brothers — one older, one younger — had lived in 16 different homes and been in and out of a half-dozen schools as a result. They were homeless three times, she recalled, crashing with friends or relatives.

Suffice it to say, Ivy’s family life was anything but stable. Before she was out of middle school, she had grown up thinking alcohol and drug abuse, and the mayhem that results, were typical.

“I thought it was normal.” But deep down, she said, she knew it was not a healthy way for a child to grow up.

One stable force was school. “My older brother always made sure I did my homework, the same with my grandpa,” she said. “I loved going to school to get away from home and be with my friends.”

Eventually, the courts got involved and Ivy spent a short time in foster care before she was able to move in with an aunt who lives in the district in 2014. Ivy spends time as often as she can with her youngest brother, who still lives with her mom; she never knew her biological father.

“My aunt really motivates me,” Ivy said. “She’s like the top influence for everything I do.”

In high school, she has challenged herself with a handful of honors and AP courses — thriving in tough math, which she said she really enjoys. She also joined the softball team her sophomore year, and has held the same job, at Yesterdog, since 2015.

Ivy admits that adjusting to the culture at EGR — where so many students have attended since kindergarten — was challenging.

“I remember being too scared to make any friends, or when I did go to someone’s house how hard it was to see (family life), or hear about them being with their siblings or with their parents, and how close they were. It just hit me hard.”

It wasn’t until last year, Ivy said, “that I started being more happy, knowing that I am in control of my life.”

Thanks to a “very cool tour guide who made me love it the way he spoke about it,” she will be a freshman at Oakland University starting in the fall, where she is considering majoring in psychology.

“I always knew I would push myself to graduate and go to college,” Ivy said. “And I’ve always felt like I was the one who could show my little brother how he could be, like (by serving as his) a role model.”

“I had to figure out that the best thing I can do for him is to better myself.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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