At this time four years ago, Phantasia Chavers of Cedar Hill was struggling with her sister’s departure for college. Today, it’s Phantasia who’s getting ready to pack her bags.
Looking Ahead To College
At the beginning of her freshman year at Cedar Hill High School, Phantasia Chavers and her family held a going-away party for her older sister, Jaquaylla Williams.
Phantasia was already looking ahead to her senior year and graduation.
“People can see I did more. And I have opportunities,” Phantasia says. “Even though she had opportunities because she was really smart, I wanna have more. Colleges just want me.”
That dream came true. This fall, she’ll head to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With scholarships and financial aid, she says she’s practically going to college for free.
“It was the last school I wanted to go to, but they offered me the most and they’re reaching out, and they sent me letters with prayers, and they had their counselors actually hand-sign it, so it wasn’t one of the stamps that they have in their offices,” she says. “That really meant a lot to me.”
Phantasia is excited about life after high school, but graduation last weekend was kind of bittersweet.
“I’m gonna have to make new friends. I’m gonna be away from everyone that I basically grew up with,” she said. “I’m gonna be away from my momma and everybody else. … It’s kinda hard, but I try not to think about it until it comes.”
Dealing With Depression
Sitting in the cafeteria at Cedar Hill High, Phantasia’s best friend Sky Roberts was wistful.
“It’s sad,” she says. “It saddens me because my best friend’s leaving. But I just know there are more doors that are going to open for both of us.”
Phantasia plans to study biology. She wants to become a pediatrician.
It’s her way of giving back after a painful childhood.
When she was 7, the man who helped raise Phantasia died. Later, a cousin was shot and killed.
When she got to high school, she had to deal with bullying and bouts of depression.
“You know, she just had a moment where she just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried,” Phantasia’s mom, Jameka Chavers, said a few years ago, at the end of her freshman year. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to take her to the hospital. She didn’t want me to hold her or touch her or anything or baby her, and she loves to be babied.”
Phantasia eventually got professional help. She says she’s mentally stronger now. She believes in herself and she attributes her faith in God to getting through the tough times.
“I still have those days where I do get down,” she says. “I give myself a day to just cry and let everything out because it’s not good to hold that stuff in. I had to learn that because I do not like crying. I hate crying.”
‘Amazingly Bright And Intelligent’
On one of her final days at high school, Phantasia walked from room to room getting teachers and friends to sign her yearbook.
John Tomlinson, a teacher and coach, remembers something he told her recently.
“I expect her to do great things and to keep her standards very high,” he says.
Tomlinson has been kind of a father figure. He talked to her about college and scholarships — and about guys. Tomlinson has three daughters of his own and it’s the same advice he’s given them: Set boundaries and make sure guys respect you.
“And they gotta honor that, and when they honor that, that’s when she’ll know, that’s the one worth spending time with,” he says. “It’s about your boundaries.”
Phantasia nods and smiles and heads to Nolana Johnson’s classroom. She teaches health science technology.
“She is an amazingly bright and intelligent student who’s too quiet,” Johnson says. “She is extremely intelligent and she seems to try to hide it sometimes. I’m not really sure why.”
On paper, the proof is there. Phantasia ended the year with 4 As, 2 Bs, a 3.5 GPA — and a diploma.
“I’ve kind of found myself, because I was kind of lost on who I really wanted to be and my real identity,” she says. “I’m pretty satisfied with the person I have become and the person I will become, too.”
Class of ’17 Yearbook
Name: Phantasia Chavers
School: Cedar Hill High School
Graduation date: May 26, 2017
Next Step: “I will be attending Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on an academic scholarship, with [financial aid] covering the rest of my expenses.”
Dream job: General pediatrician
Favorite quote: “Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”
If I could do one thing over: “I wouldn’t change anything that I have done, because past mistakes and all the trials and errors are all that makes me who I am today.”