Aside from her hard work in the classroom, Heather Converse is a leader on the softball team, where she’s a pitcher and also plays second base.

Aside from her hard work in the classroom, Heather Converse is a leader on the softball team, where she’s a pitcher and also plays second base.

Photo provided by Heather Converse


Berkley High student’s tough start to life guided her to graduation

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 26, 2021

 Converse, of Berkley, will graduate from Berkley High School with a 3.8 GPA. Though she doesn’t know what she will  study in college, she knows she wants  to work with people.

Converse, of Berkley, will graduate from Berkley High School with a 3.8 GPA. Though she doesn’t know what she will study in college, she knows she wants to work with people.

Photo provided by Heather Converse

BERKLEY — Hundreds of Berkley High School students will be walking into the DTE Energy Music Theatre to graduate June 2.

One student who will be crossing the stage that day is Heather Converse, an 18-year-old from Berkley whose life, without hard work and determination, might have been completely different.

Converse’s life took a turn at the age of 6 when she was placed into foster care. Converse said her biological mother was addicted to drugs and her biological father left when she was born and was no longer part of the picture.

Converse moved around to several different foster families. It was during this time that she was separated from an older brother and sister, who were put into separate homes, but she was kept together with her younger sister.

“Obviously, when I was 6, I couldn’t care for myself and I didn’t have parents around to do that,” she said. “My oldest sister took on the responsibility of being that parental figure for me. So I learned responsibility and how to be independent.”

At her third foster home, Converse met Karen and Randall Converse, with whom she stayed with her younger sister for three years. At the age of 9, she was adopted and took on their family name. Her younger sister also was adopted by the Converses.

Converse called her family “phenomenal,” but said that getting to them still is bittersweet.

“Like, you don’t want to leave your biological family, but honestly, I’m happy that it happened because I have great parents who care about me and encourage me and are proud of me,” she said. “They just want to see me succeed in life, and I think without that support, I would be down a much different road.”

Converse has been able to keep in touch with her older sister, who she has a good relationship with and tries to meet up with every couple of months. Sadly, her brother passed away due to drug use.

Looking back on her childhood, Converse said it taught her much and influenced her outlook on life and how her past doesn’t define her.

“It kind of motivated me to break the mold in my family and become better than what I lived,” she said. “It just motivates me to get good grades and be the best version of myself that I can be. Without those experiences and all the negative things, I wouldn’t have the drive or motivation to be successful.”

Before she was placed with her family, Converse said, she wasn’t the best student. She had missed a lot of school and kept falling behind.

Even after she moved in with the Converses, she was still struggling with math and reading skills. It wasn’t until she began seeing reading and math specialists at her elementary school that she gained the motivation to work harder and catch up to where she was supposed to be.

“Math and reading still does not come easily to me, but I have the drive because I know that I can do it now,” she said. “I’m able to put in the work and work hard. So academically-wise, I wasn’t always the best, but I’ve gained study habits that have made me a straight-A student.”

Mike Skowronski, a forensic science and honors anatomy and physiology teacher, has taught Converse since her junior year. Converse called Skowronski one of three teachers she’s had who have impacted her the most in her life.

From his first impression of her, Skowronski said, Converse was very inquisitive and a hard worker with a “high level of integrity.”

“She cares about people,” he said. “She’s very compassionate, she’s very kind, and I saw this with how she would interact with other students and also with me.”

Skowronski said that a high school student usually would not take an interest in a teacher’s life, but he would consistently hear questions from Converse about his life and his son, and Converse would talk about her life too. He’s also seen her take this same concern for other students in the classroom.

“She was always concerned about my welfare, how I was doing and other students inside the room,” he said. “At the same time, she was really kicking some serious butt in class and working hard.”

Recently, Skowronski told Converse that she gave him a “great deal of hope” for the future. He said that she’s “at a different level of kindness and empathy.”

“I really appreciate that with her and I’ll miss her when she’s gone from my classroom,” Skowronski said.

Converse will graduate Berkley High School with a 3.8 GPA. She will leave as an active student in the National Honor Society and Sources of Strength, and as a pitcher for the school’s softball team.

She plans to attend Oakland Community College for two years in order to both save money and figure out her future plans, as she hasn’t decided what she wants her major to be yet.

Converse does know, however, that she wants to work with people.

“I’ve always had the desire to better the foster care system, but sometimes I’m not sure if that would hit too close to home or how I could exactly change the system,” she said. “I just know I want to work with people. Like, counseling has always been up my alley and being able to listen and help other people with whatever they’re going through.”

When she does walk across that stage, Converse will do so as someone who’s “very proud” of herself.

“Now I’m looking back, like, being a good student has given me so many opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and it just makes me happy that I’m able to show that I can do it,” she said.