Tori Taylor doesn’t live in a castle. She wasn’t saved by a prince. You won't find a shiny crown atop her head. Nevertheless, some might say she’s a modern day Cinderella. Because, when Tori needed help, an unexpected fairy godmother arrived with a life-changing plan.
Unlike many of her peers, Tori didn’t grow up in a loving home. She lacked clean clothes, proper hygiene, and access to nutritious food. “I was sent to school in dirty, poorly-fitting clothing and a packed lunch often containing nothing more than crackers and cheese,” she explained.
To top it off, she was denied opportunities to finish her homework, pursue extra-curricular activities or learn to drive. “My dad and stepmom told me they would kick me out of the house when I turned 18,” she said. “I felt so afraid and alone.”
However, Tori wasn’t alone. Someone was watching.
Michelle Walther, is a site coordinator for Communities In Schools. The national, nonprofit organization gives at risk students the support needed to achieve - both in and out of the classroom.
As a site coordinator at Centerville High School, Michelle noticed something wasn’t right with Tori. One day, she invited her into her office and asked:
“How are you doing?”
A single question led to a series of answers. Michelle learned Tori’s basic needs were not being met. She took immediate action. This included giving Tori clean clothes, opportunities to shower at school, healthy meals, and supplies like notebooks and highlighters to stay organized in class.
“Tori was like many of the kids we work with – so burdened from shortcomings that they can’t concentrate on being a good student,” Michelle explained. “Giving a child someone they can count on to provide for their needs changes their world.”
Tori says the extra help was surprising. “I had never received attention like this!” By the time senior year began, Tori’s life had greatly improved. However, she still had a big concern. “I feared turning 18 because I would be kicked out of my house,” she explained.
Once again, Communities In Schools stepped in to help.
Michelle connected Tori with Melissa Vance. She warmly took her in. “No child should be forced to the streets just because they reach a certain age,” said Melissa. “Our family was happy to open our home and welcome Tori to be part of it.”
Unconventional Fairy Godmother Creates New Chapter for Indiana Teen
“I had never felt as loved and cared for, as I did then,” said Tori. “I grew up being treated as a burden…never feeling loved and wanted. Becoming part of this family helped me feel like I fit in and was just a normal teenager with a great family.”
Spring arrived - and with it came the big dance. One day after school, Michelle took Tori shopping for a dress and shoes. The day of prom, she had her hair professionally done.
“In less than a year, I had had gone from dirty, hungry and scared – to happy, loved and on my way to senior prom,” Tori shares.
Today, Tori is in her junior year of college, and works in the finance industry. Reflecting on her experience with Communities In Schools, she says she’s overwhelmed with gratitude.
“I don’t know where I would be today without the help of this wonderful organization,” Tori says. “I do know I would not be a part of a loving family, be on my way to a college degree, and have a full-time position in the finance industry. My life now is something I could only have dreamed about before Communities In Schools reached out to help me realize my worth and become the person that I am today.”
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