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A journey on her own


Imagine you find yourself at the age of 12 struggling with your living situation, and by 15 you turn around and you’re suddenly thrown into adulthood. Most don’t experience this until age 18 or later, but that was not the case for Michelle Kramer, a senior at Highlands Ranch High School. After her parents divorced and her mother became an alcoholic, Kramer went to live with her grandmother. She eventually moved back in with her mom, but with the threat of eviction looming overhead, she decided to move out on her own. 

According to “EurekAlert”, the number of young people who live on their own while attending high school is unknown, as the category is not covered by the U.S. Census. However, at Highlands Ranch High School, there are several students who live on their own. 

Kramer is currently living in a house in Highlands Ranch with her boyfriend. Although she no longer has a job due to COVID, her boyfriend works at Neptune’s Tropical Fish while she focuses her time on her education. Having a financial buffer of around 4,000 dollars a month for things such as car insurance, or more basic commodities, their 900 dollar rent is easier to handle. This buffer comes from both their incomes, hobbies, and everything they can do to make extra money. 

Despite having not been legally emancipated by the court because there isn’t an emancipation law in Colorado, and not having had the best experiences with Child Protective Services or DHS, Kramer only has a few months left before she turns 18. Bastiaan Wolf, ACE teacher, said, “She in no way resembles a senior in high school. She’s so responsible, so positive, and so resilient.”

Michelle Kramer, senior, said, “Nobody should put people down because of their situation, and I think that everyone should understand people go through things differently and that we shouldn’t make people feel bad because of their living situation or because of where they came from, and I think that’s kind of what I want to prove to people.” Photo by Delaney Atchison

Over the years, her living situation has drastically changed, and it is the reason behind where she is today. Kramer said, “It’s really nice not living paycheck to paycheck. I know some families are doing that which is really hard.” 

Initially, she found an ad for a roommate in Highlands Ranch, and was able to live with the roommates rent free for seven months in order to get back on her feet. “When I first started out, I didn’t have furniture, I slept on the floor, I didn’t have food, I didn’t have clothes, I had one pair of shoes,” said Kramer. 

Now, a day in her life usually involves her waking up early, coming straight home after school to do homework and simple chores, and taking care of herself and her fish before promptly going to bed by 9:30. Kramer said, “Take an old person, like 60, and it’s kind of like that.”

School is also a prominent component of her life, particularly because of the multiple AP classes she is taking. “I’ve had seven hours of homework over the weekend for the past three weekends. It’s like a whole school day,” said Kramer. Wolf, who had Kramer as a student in a business class said, “The first thing I noticed with her, was that everything she turned in was so far above and beyond basic requirements.”

Dealing with obstacles many teenagers have never even had to consider, Kramer said, “The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome in general was the fear of being by myself and the ‘what if I can’t do it?’ When a challenge comes, you just have to face it head on.”

Despite facing many unknowns, she applied the sentiment of not having to shoulder the burden of life on her own to help her through it. “I think that was the biggest thing that helped my mental health is knowing that I’m not doing this alone,” said Kramer. Not only was her boyfriend there to provide support, but her faith was a key pillar in this as well. Kramer said, “After meeting my boyfriend a couple of years ago, he said, ‘You know what? We’ll figure it all out’ and our faith was really strong at that point.”

Knowing she would have been confined and unable to achieve her full potential under someone else’s parental guidance, she said, “It was really just a lot of trusting in each other and trusting in our faith to succeed.” A firm believer in the idea that there’s a plan out there for everyone and that “God takes care of people,” her Lutheran faith has been a steady foundation in her life.

“Always look forward. It takes too much energy and it’s not helpful to dwell on the past. If you stay there, then you don’t achieve anything.”

Michelle Kramer

In regards to her hopes for the future, she wants to go to college to pursue her PhD in a field related to biology, possibly zoology. “The financial aspects of getting a career are important to me,” said Kramer.

Kramer is on track to graduate this spring, with goals for the future in mind. When looking back on her experiences, she said, “I’d rather do everything I did all over again if I had to; it’s been a journey.”

Not only did these experiences teach her how to be an example for others going through tough times, but it has also created the advice she would give to those who may be in a similar situation. Kramer said, “Always look forward. It takes too much energy and it’s not helpful to dwell on the past. If you stay there, then you don’t achieve anything.”

Delaney Atchison, Editor in Chief

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A journey on her own