Updated: May 20, 2012 at 12:00 am
For months, when Widefield High School Counselor Ben Baldwin posted new college scholarship information on the bulletin board in his office, he knew that Paris Ferribee wouldn’t be far behind.
It was like she had radar. “She’d show up there within an hour,” he laughs.
Ferribee, who graduated Saturday like many of the class of 2012 has to find a way to pay for the huge expense of college.
For Paris it’s just one more challenge for a young woman whose life has never been without challenges.
So far, she has cobbled together awards from various sources, and works 35 hours a week at two jobs, and started a couple of businesses on the side to help make her dream of becoming an architect come true.
“My mom has been both mother and father to me and I am so thankful for her. I don’t want to put college expenses on her,” Paris says.
SLIDESHOW: Widefield High School graduation
She will attend University of Colorado School of Architecture where tuition and housing can cost $22,000. So far, she has about $5,000. There is no question that Paris will succeed,” says Maureen Blunt, literature teacher at Widefield.
Blunt explains, “Over the years, Paris had any number of chances to give excuses when things weren’t going well, but she didn’t allow that to happen. Her attitude was those things don’t define me. She knows who she is and will achieve anything she puts her mind to.”
Paris took on family responsibilities beyond her years when her mother Nichelle Ferribee, and grandparents struggled with health problems and accompanying economic concerns.
Paris adored her grandmother Evelyn Ferribee who was always there for her in spite of being seriously ill. Paris helped care for her while her mother was working and going to college.
“Her grandmother was a diabetic and had a tracheotomy, and Paris was only ten but learned to help with all that entailed. And she did it with great grace,” Nichelle Ferribee says.
At age 12, Paris took care of both her mom and grandmother when they had life threatening illnesses at the same time followed by lengthy recuperations.
Relatives helped, but it was Paris who held things together. “She kept a smile on her face and was our biggest encourager,” said Nichelle Ferribee. “But I know it was crushing her, wondering what if we both die?’”
Church was an anchor – Paris sings in a praise group, played piano and was the only nine-year-old on church hospitality committee because she was so good at helping the elderly. But at times she questioned her faith while seeing her grandmother and mother so sick.
“She had to learn as a young person, to tap into her faith and trust God that it all would be okay,” Nichelle Ferribee said.
In high school, Paris took honors classes, was president of the National Honor Society, student council treasurer, and oversaw charitable events.
Academics were a priority. “I made sure my grades were good because that was one thing my family wouldn’t have to worry about.”
She was particularly inspired by Blunt, her literature teacher. “She is awesome, she wanted me to succeed.”
Blunt notes that Paris “pulls the human experience out of what she reads.”
Paris decided in fifth grade she wanted to go into architecture, after taking a class at a summer camp for talented and gifted students. “I fell in love with being able to create things, to see my ideas in solid form,” she says.
In 2010 she was chosen for a summer program at University of Michigan’s architecture school, where she constructed a pavilion. She wants to someday have her own company.
She works 35 hours a week, with jobs at Pikes Peak Community College’s high school program, and a yogurt shop. She has her own photo business Paris Vous Aime, and helps a couple of friends in a business designing clothing. She also makes jewelry.
“Keeping busy is the best way to be successful, “ Paris says. “Mom always taught me that you won’t get anything handed to you, so you have to keep pushing.”
She was chosen for one of only 150 architect slots at CU, and she enters as a sophomore, because of credits earned in high school.
She has been aided by Dollars for Scholars, VFW, and Israelite Church of God in Christ, and CU grants.
She has always been particularly frugal. Her mother had taught her how to budget by dividing her money into envelopes for expenses. If she wanted to go bowling with her friends, the money had to be there in her entertainment file.
Her mother, who works for Memorial Health Systems, tells her “Don’t overstress. You will go to school no matter what.”
High school graduation is a bittersweet moment. Her grandmother, “fought on her deathbed to see Paris graduate,” Nichelle Ferribee says. The elderly woman passed away in 2009.
When Paris tried on her cap and gown for graduation, she broke into tears.
“I realized I had finally made it. And I was thinking of everyone who helped me.”
Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook Carol McGraw