May 24, 2019
Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams. -Ben Carson
I became a young mother at the age of 18. I faced many obstacles in my life. Ontonio is my 2kbaby (4th child). I went to college when he was an infant. I utilized the college labs and Head Start for child care. These services made it possible for me to attend school, work, and study! I worked on campus as student help too, and gained valuable work skills from the EOPS/CARES office at Cosumnes River community college. I was a CalWORKs recipient while working and attending college full time as a single parent. I learned a lot of my parenting principles from my ECE courses at school. (I’m still learning and far from perfect.) School is where I learned how dysfunctional my childhood experience was. School also empowered me with the tools I needed to grow and mature.
I cannot recall a time when my parents or teachers talked to me about going to college. But, my brother Keith was an example for my sister and I. I admired everything about him because he worked very hard. He started at Sacramento City college and transferred to Long Beach state on a track scholarship. He is the reason why I participated in track and cross country. I wanted to be like him. ❤️ I’ve always loved learning and aspired to be a teacher from the time I was a little girl. I remember playing school with the children in my apartment complex. I had the opportunity to teach at a community college and it was a dream come true. There is something really special about community college. I have such fond memories of my community college days.
I am a thriver, not a survivor. I was a victim of GUN violence and abuse, stayed in a shelter briefly, lived in a 1 bedroom apartment with my kids, experienced parent abandonment, lost my son to incarceration, and suffered from PTSD and depression. My ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score is very high. If you take a peek at my college transcripts, you will see the seasons where I struggled. But, I believe life experience is invaluable for making connections, building relationships, and gaining a broader perspective. Through Christ’s strength I achieved all my goals except one, thus far, and its losing the trauma weight. I am working on this now.
God has NEVER failed me. He’s always been faithful and this is why I praise Him.
Seeing Ontonio graduate this week reminded me of when I finally began to feel our lives take a turn for the better. I went from being a waitress at Denny’s and IHOPs while 9 months pregnant to building our house from the ground up. It took me 15 years to obtain my masters degree! I am a firm believer that education changes lives. Aside from accepting Christ, obtaining a higher education was the BEST thing I did for myself and children, while on this earth. You can’t compare the two because one is an eternal gift and education is an earthly gift.
I’ve modeled to my children that life can throw you blows, but it’s how you respond to the blows that builds your faith and character. During all of this turmoil, I still had to work even though sometimes I felt like I could barely breathe. There were many of times, I could barely pull myself out of bed when my children were younger. I remember praying and asking God, please help me. I couldn’t tap out, my kids depended on me, literally.
I shared just enough for you to know why I advocate so strongly for my kids, for the powerless, marginalized, and voiceless. Jesus is just.
I would like to take a moment to say thank you to a few people:
Thank you to my sister Lisa for always being my protector.
Thank you to my case worker Christina Castillo at Department of Human Assistance.
Thank you to the Victim”s Witness Assistance program.
Thank you to my teachers at Cosumnes River and Sacramento City College who ignited a spark within me: Mrs. Silva, you gave me hope that one day I could be like you. It was so inspiring to have a teacher who was a black woman and went to community college herself. Mr. Ly and Mr. Phillips you gave me the confidence to learn math and taught me more than high school. Ms. Miriam Beloglovsky- I learned so much from your cultural diversity class. I admired the strength and confidence you brought to the class.
Thank you to my friends I met at college: Irene- you taught me that children need consistency. Sam Lewis- you inspired me to continue in school. Kelly Merrell- you inspired me to be a better mother.
Thank you to the many random strangers that would see my kids and I eating out and pay for our food. Your random acts of kindness was proof to me God heard my prayers. To this day, I continue to pay it forward.
I write this in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and for the many students who are graduating and overcoming.
If you’re a thriver, share your story.