GREENFIELD — Even with a name like Destiny, you can take control of your future.
That was the case for one member of the Greenfield-Central High School class of 2020.
After growing up in a household plagued by domestic abuse, Destiny Taulman-Franklin finally found her breaking point.
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She had always been the kind of kid who made good grades, but the violence in her home began to escalate around the time she entered high school her freshman year. Her grades began to drop, and her longtime hope of one day going to college started to fade.
After months spent wishing authorities would remove her from her mother’s home, she finally moved in with her maternal grandmother during her sophomore year.
On the surface, Destiny looked like any other teenager — playing clarinet in the school marching band for three years, then working part-time to buy a car her senior year. But behind the scenes, she was dealing with a far darker reality.
When asked about her path to high school graduation, Franklin starts out with trepidation, not wanting to publicly cast blame.
“I guess things at my house with my mother got really hard,” said Franklin, 18.
The situation put her and her three younger siblings in danger, she said. As the oldest sibling, Destiny felt helpless to protect her brothers in a home she knew was chaotic and unsafe.
Child Protective Services had been called in shortly after she moved in with her grandmother, but her brothers weren’t removed from the house.
“They said if she kicked that one guy out she was living with it would be fine, but that wasn’t the only problem. She didn’t kick him out, and it just got worse for my brothers,” said Destiny, who continued living with her grandma.
Franklin worked up the resolve to spend some time with her mother and her live-in boyfriend around Christmastime that year. “I figured I could at least give her that,” she said.
The day was tolerable, but when she returned to her mom’s house unexpectedly that night to pick up some medication she forgot, “I walked into the house and there was blood everywhere. It was bad,” she said.
She found a heavy cabinet overturned and multiple doors torn off the hinges. One door appeared to be ripped in half, she said.
The police had already been called. Both her mother and her live-in boyfriend had been injured, fighting with one another. Destiny had seen enough.
“I saw that as a breaking point for me,” she said. “I wasn’t going to try anymore. I grabbed my cat and left.”
Even though her three brothers were away at the time, Child Protective Services got involved again, and her brothers were sent to live with their dads.
“We were very close, so it was very hard not being able to see them daily,” Destiny said.
Relieved that her brothers were now safe, she turned her focus to her studies, but her relationship with her mom continued to wreak havoc in her life. She was ordered to visit with her mom throughout her junior year of high school, and the stress of the relationship nearly broke her.
“I was always a really good student until high school when everything went downhill. I didn’t purposely try to fail. I really tried. I wanted to get into college, so I tried as hard as I could, but I sunk into a really bad depression,” she said.
“I kind of gave up at one point — really at multiple points — thinking I just can’t do this anymore, but I got back on track my senior year. I think I got pretty much all As,” she said.
Destiny credits her high school art teacher, Lisa Sears, and her high school counselor, Kim Kile, for encouraging her to see things through to graduation. They believed in her dream of one day going to college, she said.
“Mrs. Sears gave me someone to be able to talk to, like almost every single day. She was a friend to me,” said Destiny, whose favorite class was art. She loves photography and hopes to study it in college and become a wedding photographer someday.
“I was always doubtful of my photography. I didn’t think I was good enough… I never thought I was good enough in anything I do. But she told me I was. She gave me confidence,” she said of her art teacher.
“Mrs. Kile was probably the one that actually pushed me the most,” Destiny said. “I needed to get into college, and she made sure I was happy, safe and that everything was going OK with my grandma,” she recalled.
“If it were not for having her, having someone to support me, to push me to do anything at all, I probably wouldn’t end up being able to go to college,” she said.
Destiny persevered and got her grades back up to being good enough to get into a university. She worked part-time at Pizza Hut her senior year to start saving up for tuition.
She’d love to go to Indiana State University or Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI next fall.
“I knew if I wanted to ever get away from the situations I was in as a kid I’d have to make more money for myself and be able to hold my own ground,” she said of her ambitions to continue her education.
Destiny is still living with her grandmother, Tanya Cox, but she hopes to soon save up enough to get her own apartment. She hasn’t spoken to her mother since around August last year.
While she’s hesitant to share her story, she hopes it can inspire other young people in similar situations to never give up, despite their circumstances.
“I’d recommend not giving up, to keep pushing through it. It will get better after you leave the house,” she said.
Even though the stress she endured during her four years of high school made it hard to focus on her classwork, all the hard work was worth it in the end, she said.
She credits her grandmother for putting a roof over her head, keeping her fed and safe, and for helping her to develop into a responsible young adult — something she doubts she could have done living at her mother’s house.
Destiny now has her sights set on her future, one she hopes includes college and a career someday.
She’s now working as a hotel housekeeper in order to save up enough to hopefully attend college next year.
“There are so many good things to say about that kiddo,” said Sears, her high school art teacher. “She’s obviously overcome a lot of adversity to get to where she is today. I hope she remembers that she’s amazing and wonderful and she has a lot of potential. I know she can do great things.”
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The is the second in a series of stories about members of the Class of 2020 in Hancock County as they prepare for commencement exercises this weekend.