Nation overcomes the odds, becomes first in family to attend college

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By Hallie Beard

As 17-year-old Kimberly Nation reminisces on her high school career, she remembers all the obstacles she had to overcome — switching schools, drug use, dropping grades. Of five children, Nation will be the first in her family to attend college.

Tuesday, Nation graduated from Hillview Academy, the alternative school of Taylorsville, making her the second in her family to graduate high school.
“I can’t believe I did it — I’m going to miss it,” Nation said.
“Before I went to Hillview, I had bad grades and was always getting in trouble,” said Nation, who has now finished school with straight A’s. “But you can’t fail at Hillview. They won’t let you.”
Nation said when she began attending Hillview and before, she “was always on drugs,” but conversations with Bob Hafendorfer, the school’s principal and district director of pupil personnel, about the dangers of drug use helped convince her to stop.
Throughout middle and high school, Nation battled low and negative expectations others placed on her.
“Everyone thought I’d be the one to drop out,” she said. “But I surprised myself and everyone else.”
Common issues in today’s schools include bullying, name-calling, etc. But according to Nation, Hillview is different.
“It’s a quiet, safe environment,” she said. “You don’t get picked on, and no one judges you — it’s very safe.”
As principal of the small, nontraditional school, Hafendorfer is able to work one-on-one with each of his students, determining their individual needs and abilities. For students like Nation, having a close-knit, understanding faculty made all the difference.
“Mr. Bob actually cares about you,” said Nation, reflecting on how he had taught classes on life skills and drug awareness — subjects pertaining to real-life situations. “Hillview prepares you for the real world.”
While at Hillview, Nation learned career-related skills and put them into practice by doing a co-op with a Shepherdsville hospital, gaining 16 hours of clinical experience and becoming a CNA. She also worked with elderly patients at a nursing home in Louisville.
“It’s a totally different experience [from high school],” she said. “But it’s fun. It makes you feel good, helping people.”
Nation will attend JCTCS in Shelbyville to earn a bachelor’s degree and an RN license. She hopes to work for Kosair Children’s Hospital in the future as a neonatal nurse.
“I love babies and kids,” said Nation, who spent much of her youth helping care for her two younger siblings. “I like helping people, and I feel I have the strength.”
Now, with high school behind her and a promising career path ahead, Kimberly excitedly prepares for the fall.
She remembers her past, however, and gives a word of advice to those still struggling: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what anyone says you can and can’t do. Don’t let anyone bring you down — keep going.”