Mark Jeacoma

"If I didn’t have [Collier] as a constant at that time, I would’ve been a disaster!”  That’s how Mark Jeacoma summed up his experience at Collier High School, which he attended for his sophomore through senior years before graduating in June of 2004.  A self-described “hard kid,” Mark was kicked out of his district school for fighting, placed in rehab, and then referred to Collier.  During this time, his parents were also having difficulty that eventually resulted in a bitter divorce but, according to Mark, “They didn’t agree about anything, but they both loved this place!”

When Mark first arrived at Collier, he was completely disconnected from his education and had absolutely no interest in learning.  “I remember giving up on school…I was over it, and didn’t even care.  It was just another hang-out to come to and not let anything bother me.”  After being at CHS for a few weeks, though, Mark began to feel differently.  “I found a group of people who understood what I was going through, both kids and staff,” recalled Mark.  “All the teachers were understanding with me, and all the students were like me.  I felt comfortable here.”  Even though he was just 15 at the time, Mark felt older based on the rough life he’d lived thus far.  “I didn’t feel like a kid.  I was in and out of rehabs, but nobody babied me,” Mark remembered.  “They treated you like a person, and really let me be who I wanted to be here.”

Mark connected with several facets of the program, including the Building Trades classes with Mr. Staggard and the Anger Management group therapy offered.  It was the very special relationship with his Social Worker, Barbara Raffel, however, that made all the difference for Mark.  “She just cared about what was going on with me,” he asserted.  One of Mark’s darkest times was when his longtime girlfriend (currently his wife) moved out of state. “Barb said all I have to do is graduate and then I can do what I want.”  She talked to his girlfriend on the phone, and together they convinced Mark that the best thing he can do for himself is to earn his diploma.  “She was the only one who took me out of it.  I don’t know how she did it, but she did!  I didn’t want to let her down.”

After graduating from Collier, Mark moved to North Carolina to join his girlfriend and attended Forsyth Technical College in Winston-Salem.  He managed the Wireless Department at a local Costco for six years before leaving to join the team at Verizon as a District Trainer for Verizon Wireless where he has been since.  IN 2008 Mark married his high-school sweetheart, Ruth, and they have two beautiful children, Grayson (“G-Man”) who is 3 years old and baby Olivia.  Mark and his entire family returned to Collier recently to visit his Social Worker, Barbara Raffel, with whom he keeps in close contact via phone and Facebook.  “I’m really glad [Barb] is still here because, if she’s still seeing kids, then they’re getting what they need,” said Mark.  “There are certain people who are special…they’ve got that gift.”