"At certain points, his behavior got so bad," Chelsea said, "I thought, 'I can't do this anymore. I can't be a teacher.'" Chelsea was working with Teach for America in a low-income elementary school. That's how she found herself in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, struggling to control Jerome and, somehow, gaining his trust. Other teachers would send the boy to her classroom, where she made him get his work done. "I got a lot of thankful emails and knocks on my door," she said.
She did not expect to encounter a tough boy like Jerome. She definitely did not plan on adopting him and his little brother. "I never thought I'd be a single mom in my early twenties, especially of two boys, one of whom was my 12-year-old student. And the other one who was only a year-and-a-half."
Jerome was living with his birth mother and his newborn brother, Jace, at the time. Mother’s husband and a small daughter had both already died. The family of three was in poverty and moved around a lot.
By 2015, Chelsea had signed up for a third year as a special ed teacher so she could continue to work with Jerome. Then one night she had a dream that Jerome was living with her. The very next day, he sat alone with her taking a test. "He just asked if he could live with me," she recalled. "I told him I had been feeling the same thing." The next day, Chelsea went to dinner with Jerome, Jace and their mother. After Chelsea had explained she would be returning to her home in Georgia, mother told her: “I want you to take Jerome and Jace with you."
Chelsea returned to Georgia, pulled money from her retirement account for a down payment on a house, and filed to adopt both boys. At age 26, she was a middle school teacher in a suburb of Atlanta. Jerome "has not gotten any suspensions or anything, which is a huge improvement from life in Louisiana," she said. "He used to fail all of his classes and just didn't care. Now he has made honor roll both quarters of his eighth-grade year so far."