My life began to change, and in one year, I graduated from high school an honor roll student, got my first job as a US Census enumerator, started saving money, and applying for college.
Do you know what it’s like to look to someone to for support and care only for them to betray that trust? Unfortunately, I do, and I learned this at a very early age. When I was 14 years old, I was raped by my stepfather. It was a traumatizing experience, one that led to my grades dropping, my relationships with my family turning sour, and a loss of hope. His abuse didn’t stop, but worsened. He continued to molest me, beat me, verbally and mentally abuse me until I had become a completely different person. I was now cold and angry, a high school dropout, violent and pugnacious. I had given up on any dream I’d had of becoming something beautiful, something great.
When I turned 17, I was faced with a new problem. My stepfather tired of my anger and retaliation, and decided that once my eighteenth birthday arrived, I was no longer welcome in his house. I had no family or friends to stay with, so I was in danger of being homeless. One day in June of 2009, I found a website, SahsaBruce.org. There I learned of the organization’s independent living program. I started going through the interview process needed to get in. Everything was going well; I was nailing every interview and it looked like I wasn’t going to be homeless after all. Then it happened.
One night I got into a physical altercation with my stepfather. Back and forth, we threw punches, pushed each other around, and I was scared. I feared for my life in that moment and I knew I had to leave if I wanted to be safe. I managed to get away from him, pack a bag, and I left around midnight. I was going to turn 18 in about a week, and I had no place to go. A kind couple and their three children took me in and cared for me as if I was their own. I only needed somewhere to stay for a week until I could complete my final interview and get my spot in the Independent Living Program. However, I couldn’t stay for a week, and I knew this. The family was struggling to feed their own children, and I felt like a burden after awhile. I left, and slept on a park bench outside a recreation center one night, sick, hungry and desperate for help. The next day I went in for my final interview and on July 14, I moved into my first apartment at the program.
The very next day my life began to change, and in one year, I graduated from high school an honor roll student, got my first job as a US Census enumerator, started saving money, and applying for college. Now I’m a Sasha Bruce employee, giving back to the organization that saved my life, and am waiting to get the OK for Georgetown University where I will study business management and music. More importantly, I am well on my way to becoming the person I had once dreamed I would be.
Today we are here to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said that “Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” I am here today in hopes that I can fulfill Dr. King’s words by inspiring others to action with the telling of my story.