Trayvon Martin’s friend lives a changed life since his death

(CNN) — It’s been a year since George Zimmerman learned his fate in the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in the death of the Florida teen.

Rachel Jeantel was the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin before he was killed.

A year ago, we watched as she made no secret of her feelings during a combative cross-examination by the defense in Zimmerman’s murder trial.

Today in Miami, she’s working hard to put the past behind her and to deal with lingering regret.

She’s made an astonishing turnaround in her life since the trial.

But first she needed a lot of help. Miami attorney Rod Vereen organized a support group for Jeantel called “The Village,” providing her with counseling to deal with the grief of losing her long time friend, and intense tutoring to overcome problems in school.

No one knew it at the time, but when the then-19-year old took the stand, she was barely able to read and write beyond the level of a third-grader.

She often pushed back when tutoring took four to six hours a day.

But her tutors didn’t give up, and neither did Jeantel. In May, she donned a cap and gown and collected her high school diploma.

She credits what has taken place since what happened in the courtroom to Trayvon Martin, all the good things. The fact that she’s graduated, she said “well, I kept my word to Trayvon that I would do this.”

She’s also keeping a promise to herself by having the last word for people who criticized the way she talked and acted on the witness stand.

Jeantel has had to do a lot of growing up and learning how to take responsibility for her actions.

She believes George Zimmerman should do the same. “He know he did wrong and he gotta man up to it,” she said.

Jeantel still has a lot of work of her own ahead of her: more growing, more tutoring and plans to go to college.

There’s several careers she’s got in mind, but after her experience, there’s one line of work she can definitely rule out.

“Do you want to be an attorney?” “No,” she definitively says with a laugh.

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