Redemption: Trayvon Martin Friend Rachel Jeantel Earns Diploma

June 3, 2014  |  

Less than three miles away from where one of her closest friends was killed, Rachel Jeantel walked across the stage of a Miami auditorium and was presented with her high school diploma.

Famed for being a key witness in the high-profile Trayvon Martin case, Jeantel fulfilled a promised she made her slain friend. The 20-year-old was the last person to talk to Martin before his death. Shot and killed by George Zimmerman, Martin’s case became a national obsession when it was found that the young boy was unarmed—bringing several subjects to the surface, the most prevalent of them being racial profiling.

Zimmerman was found not guilty at the end of his murder trial, and as much of the nation moved on with their lives post-verdict, Jeantel did the same. She teamed up with the Tom Joyner Foundation who set her up with tutors and psychologist who helped the young woman boost her reading levels with three-hour after-school tutoring five to six days per week.

Notorious for her unpolished demeanor and speech while providing her witness testimony during the trial, a now-well-spoken Jeantel tells to Yahoo news, “I did it. The witness who didn’t know how to speak English knows how to speak English through the 12th grade now.”

A reminder of her good friend, Trayvon was even present on her graduation day with his mom, Sybrina Fulton attending the ceremony. “Her coming is like having Trayvon there saying, ‘You did it. You proved people wrong,” she said.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, the recent grad has a new lease on life calling her diploma ceremony “just the beginning” of her life. Obtaining her high school degree isn’t the only recent major accomplishment of Jeantel’s—she also earned her driver’s license a few months ago.

While she still works with tutors to improve her learning skills and development in preparation for college, the confident young woman already is already setting long-term goals—hoping to one day be a clothing designer.

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