Student overcomes homelessness, addiction to earn high school equivalency and scholarship

Brandy Sperry and daughter GraceBrandi Sperry remembers the chilly night she decided to reach out for help. Pregnant, recovering from a battle with substance abuse and getting over a toxic relationship, she was living in a car detailing shop and sleeping on plywood covered by a piece of carpet.

Hungry and out of options, she called a distant aunt and uncle hoping for a meal. Instead, they offered her a home, compassion and unconditional support. It was an unfamiliar stability that gave Sperry the confidence to set her sights on earning her high school diploma.

She turned to Harper College. After having her daughter, Sperry enrolled in the College’s free High School Equivalency (formerly GED) exam prep classes. Her excellent test scores helped earn her a scholarship to Harper that covers her tuition. Her sights are now set on becoming a teacher or nurse.

“I’m proof you should never let your current situation scare you away from being the best you that you can be,” said Sperry, who recently finished her first semester at Harper.

Sperry, now 22 years old and living in Hanover Park, will share her story at Harper’s High School Equivalency graduation at 7 p.m. Friday, June 17, at the Performing Arts Center on the College’s main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine.

She joins about 90 graduates whose new credentials will help them go forward in life. They range in age from 17 to 62 years old and represent 17 counties.

Sperry will emphasize that a person’s past doesn’t have to dictate their future. Before 2-year-old Grace was born, Sperry considered herself broken. She attended 13 different schools growing up and used drugs and alcohol to cope with her problems. She lacked self-worth and made poor choices as a result.

Today, she’s inspired by Grace to push herself a little more each day. The single mom works hard and waitresses almost full time. She also takes advantage of the resources Harper offers, from the free childcare at the Palatine Opportunity Center she used during her exam prep classes to seeking the guidance of faculty and staff such as Adult Educational Development Transition Coordinator Devin Chambers.

Chambers, she said, guided her. He helped her with classes, set her up with vouchers toward the cost of the HSE exam and urged her to apply for the HSE Distinguished Scholar Award that she ultimately received.

“Devin was my motivator and encourager,” Sperry said. “He’s been my cheerleader. He really goes above and beyond and has been a huge factor in my success.”

Harper offers a variety of high school equivalency test prep classes and adult education bridge programs to transition to college-level career programs. To learn more, visit harpercollege.edu.

Media contact:Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159

Last Updated: 3/10/23