A quiet young woman with a big personality and a heart to match, D’Nayjah is ready for her next chapter in life.
“I want to give my parents a nice, custom home after I become a successful real estate agent,” the May 2022 graduate said with a smile. Rooted in her faith, the youngest sibling of six always puts her family first.
“Then I want to give my nieces and nephews whatever they want,” she added. “My family is a big part of my life, both literally and figuratively. They mean a lot to me.”
Life for D’Nayjah began abruptly. She was born six weeks premature, weighing just four pounds and 13 ounces. Her mother, Stephanie, remembers the long weeks she spent watching her daughter grow in intensive care as she herself recovered from the delivery that left her paralyzed.
“I told the staff I wasn’t going to leave without my baby,” said Stephanie, who serves as a home services specialist at the MCH Boys Ranch. “She was so tiny that I used baby doll clothes to dress her. She kept growing and I learned how to walk again.”
Growth comes through hardship and D’Nayjah encountered both academic and social struggles early in life. Her parents decided to enroll her in the Day Student program at the charter school on the MCH Waco campus.
MCH launched the Day Student program in 2012 for students in Waco and surrounding communities needing a smaller academic setting. D’Nayjah was one of the first sixth-grade students in the program.
“I am proud D’Nayjah stuck with us,” said Amy Grisham, director of school support. “We have been through every high and every low together throughout the last six years. It has been exciting to watch D’Nayjah grow into a young woman.”
D’Nayjah is involved in theater, the ag program and the student advisory board, where she can share her ideas freely in a safe space with her peers and school staff.
“It is nice to feel like I have a say in things like event planning and other topics, especially since I have been here for six years,” D’Nayjah shared.
D’Nayjah’s older brother graduated from the charter school in 2016. He participated in the ag program and encouraged her to get involved. D’Nayjah has raised goats and sheep since she was in the eighth grade.
In February 2021, D’Nayjah and her sheep went on to the sale of champions at the McLennan County Junior Livestock Show, in honor of her superb care of her animal. She also received an award for excellence in showmanship at the seventh annual showmanship contest at the Boys Ranch in November 2021.
Kevin Gibbs, one of the ag teachers at the charter school, has witnessed D’Nayjah’s growth over the last five years and recalls fond memories from the moments they have shared.
“Every time D’Nayjah learns something new, a light bulb goes off inside her – that brings me so much joy,” Gibbs said. “I’d verbally praise her and D’Nayjah would give me a quiet smile. She has learned to nurture and care for animals and can apply those lessons to other areas of her life, whether it be her career or possibly her own future family.”
After graduation, D’Nayjah will transition into the Independent Living program at MCH, where staff will help guide her as she begins her collegiate career at McLennan Community College.
“I have witnessed D’Nayjah’s hard work to make it to where she is now,” said Allyson Welch, Day Student case manager. “She sets a good example for her peers and she is utilizing all of the resources available to her. She and the other students know we will always be here to support her.”
“The MCH staff is really like a second family to me,” D’Nayjah said. “They see our worth and I’m happy to be part of a place like this. MCH is my home away from home.”