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'Fresh Start'

Incoming student cleared mental health obstacles

If you had asked Leyla Tremblay last year what her future plans were, her answer would have been heartbreaking.  

To put things bluntly Leyla, who is very open about her mental health struggles, said her outlook was not good.  

“So many little things were piling up and turned into one huge thing,” she said. “It all came crashing down on me. I almost felt like it was the end of the world…if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t care and didn’t think I’d be alive anymore.” 

It wasn’t easy, but once Leyla found the right support, she was able to turn things around and this fall will be attending Bridgewater State University.  

What makes this so unique is that Leyla is only 16, and while most of her peers are busy working toward completing their junior year in high school, the Rochester native already has her high school diploma.  

A year ago, none of this seemed possible. That’s when Leyla was skipping school, with no effort put into what she wore, or concern over how she looked. She also lost her appetite.  

“I definitely knew something was wrong. For a long time, I got really good at hiding things because I didn’t want to be a burden,” Leyla said. “I also hid it because of the stigma attached to mental health. I was too ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t even want my family to know.” 

As things got increasingly difficult, Leyla couldn’t hide it anymore and fortunately was able to find a crisis center where she got the support she needed, and things slowly began to improve.  

“As I got better I realized I don’t have to be ashamed of my story,” she said.

Leyla also came to recognize that the traditional public-school setting wasn’t working for her and opted to enroll in Penn Foster, an online, self-paced high school graduation course.  

What she did next is impressive.  

Typically, students are given three years to complete the program, Leyla did it in four months. During the day she worked and helped around the house, doing most of her studying at night.  

Her discipline paid off and Leyla earned her high school diploma and teachers’ assistance license this past December.  

Throughout her journey she realized something else: she wanted to go to college. With a desire to help others, she decided she wanted to study social work and discovered BSU has a strong social work program.  

So, with renewed confidence, she applied.  

When a text came through from Bridgewater, Leyla assumed it was to confirm her application. After looking closer, she realized it was actually a congratulatory message, alerting her that she was accepted.  

“I started crying,” Leyla said. “It felt really good to have something go my way for once.” 

Her best friend Mackenzye, who is a year older than her, also got into BSU and the two plan to live together on campus.  

As she gets ready for this next phase, she’s a little nervous but mostly excited. 

“When I was in high school, I was stuck on that chapter, the one where I was really struggling. I am finally able to put that book down and open up a new one,” she said. “When I read my new book, I’ll remember the previous chapters from before, but it will be nice to have a fresh start.”  

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