PLEASANTVILLE — “I became a better student for my mom,” said 17-year-old Jamera Corbitt.
A junior at Pleasantville High School, Jamera describes herself as “just a regular teenager.” The bubbly, talkative young woman said she loves to joke, and thinks most other people find her funny, as well.
“I’m a social butterfly,” she said, her dark brown hair falling just below her shoulders, curled at the ends and parted in the middle.
It’s true that Jamera is a lot like most teenagers: going to school, going to work at a local daycare and looking forward to college. But she also has overcome undue hardship in her young years.
As a middle school student, Jamera said, she feared the worst when her mom became sick: losing a parent. Not only was Jamera’s mother fighting a heart problem for which she underwent open heart surgery, the family of five was homeless, living in a motel while her mother worked and underwent medical treatment.
Because of this, Jamera said she began to act out.
“And then I noticed that this is not going to make my mom proud, so since I became a freshman, I was like, ‘I really have to get myself together,’” she said.
Jamera’s grandmother took the family in at the time, and her mom survived the ordeal.
Now, Jamera, her mom and her three siblings live with her grandparents, aunt and other family members.
“It’s 11 people in our house,” she said. “It’s fun. You have different personalities all in one house.”
Jamera said she still had her challenges, trying to “be down” with her friends, but mellowed out by her sophomore year.
“When junior year came, I was like, ‘This is my year,’” Jamera said, her plump cheeks perking up higher as she smiled. “I still just want to make her proud.”
Despite the school’s strict dress-code policy, Jamera finds ways to individualize her outfit, proudly donning her green Xinos pin on her black sweater with green pants to match and black boots that come up above the knee. Her long nails sometimes click together when she uses her hands to emphasize a point.
The Xinos Iota Chapter is a group for young women from the area and is part of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Epsilon. Jamera said she got involved in the organization through school and that the women who lead it are inspirations for her.
“They’re pretty much just teaching us the idea of sisterhood,” she said. “They give us that whole college experience, what it’s like, how you should go about it.”
Jamera has big plans for after high school, hoping to get enough academic scholarships to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she plans to study biology with a minor in African American studies. Inspired by television, Jamera said she wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“I really want to get out of Pleasantville to go to college,” she said. “I want to be something in life. I want to change my community in some way.”
Jamera came to the district in second grade from Atlantic City after her mom found a new home at the Sassafras Run apartment complex on the north side of the city.
“She never really explained it to us. I always thought it was that she just wanted a new environment, so we came to Pleasantville, which I still thought was kind of like Atlantic City,” said the teen.
Jamera immediately came to love her friends and the school district.
“Everyone was so friendly, and I liked it,” Jamera said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is different.’”
Jamera said she was happy with the education she was receiving and the eagerness of the faculty to push the students toward higher education, but she wants to see better programming and more teachers.
“We barely have teachers here,” she said. “Last year, the school used to be really good.”
She said her favorite teacher from last year left for another district that had a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — program.
“I want them to try new things, add new classes here,” Jamera said of the district.
She said she also wants the students to be more confident in doing things on their own, and for the administration to listen more to the students’ wants and needs.
Jamera said her school year so far has lived up to her expectations.
“Junior year I knew it was going to be hard, so I expected challenges,” she said. “I need something that’s going to challenge me, so I can have a barrier to break.”