COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thousands of teens across the state of Ohio get the chance to walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas each year. But for one Columbus City Schools senior, the moment is even more special.

What You Need To Know

  • The straight-A student was named the 2021 valedictorian at Columbus Scioto 6 - 12

  • Cierra Cowan aged out of foster care in 2020 with concerns about where she would live next

  • My Place, a program at The Buckeye Ranch, helps 17-21-year-olds learn life skills, provided her with an apartment

  • Cowan picked up a second job while in high school to make ends meet 

For years, Cierra Cowan moved from home to home within the foster care system. She struggled to find that perfect fit.

With her mom no longer living, Cowan was trying to figure out how to make it. In the midst of that, she admits she had a lot of pent-up anger.

Teachers from Columbus Scioto 6 - 12 said there many days when they first met her, that she lashed out. But with supportive educators and others in her life, things began to turn around. 

Without waiting too much longer, she picked up a job and focused on school.

In 2020, Cowan aged out of foster care. Unclear as to what was next, she ended up at My Place. The program helps teens aging out of the system learn the skills needed to live on their own. For Cowan, it was just what she needed. Administrators said she excelled in everything from budgeting to work and going to school. 

A straight-A student, Cowan picked up two jobs when the hours from one were cut.

Despite that, she managed to become her school's 2021 valedictorian.

Proud of her accomplishments, Cowan is set to attend Columbus State Community College and pursue cosmetology.

She said she wants to open her own business one day. 

Editors Note: The story has been updated to reflect that 'My Place' is a program at The Buckeye Ranch, not a distinct organization as noted in an earlier version.