Tyree lives at our Independent Living Program, and was the keynote speaker at our recent fundraising concert at the Carnegie Institute.
His remarks were inspirational:
My name is Tyree and let me tell you a little about myself. I am a twin, the oldest out of two sets. I grew up in North East and South East DC. I am now 18 years old but my problems started when I was 15 going on 16 and I found out my girlfriend was pregnant. I knew from that moment my life would be different. When I told my mom she was furious! Her words, her body language, our relationship changed. As we got closer and closer to my daughter’s due date, it was like my mother turned to another person.
Our relationship was always up and down. When things were good, they were great! When things were bad, they were terrible. I remember running away a lot when I was younger and even remember staying overnight at the Sasha Bruce House. My mother refused to be involved with family counseling so I went home but nothing changed.
My mother’s mouth was like a gun and her words were like bullets straight to my heart. My mother destroyed me mentally, breaking me day after day, week after week and month after month. When my daughter arrived I was afraid my mother was going to hate her.
When my daughter was born, Christmas and Birthdays died for me. Money that would be spent on me was spent on my daughter. Struggling for money, I turned to the only resource for money I knew: the streets, which then lead me to become incarcerated. I hated the thought of not seeing my daughter grow up so I knew I had to change my ways. I refused to allow myself to get into that kind of trouble again. After the baby was born I had dropped out of school because I was trying to make money and take care of my child so the mother could be in school.
I decided I had to go back to school so I could get an education. I started to attend Luke C Moore Academy which is alternative school in the city. Even though I was trying my best, things at home started coming up. Some days my mother would give me this look like I disgusted her. She looked at me the same way she looked at the man’s picture who murdered her little brother. I could never forget that look.
Just knowing what I was going home to everyday filled me with rage. So one day I took that rage out and started a fight at Luke C. Moore. And because of how bad the fight got, I was expelled from Luke C. Moore. The whole situation could easily been resolved with family counseling, but my mother hated the thought of telling a stranger our business. I also wish I could have gone to another school in the city but Luke C Moore is the only one of its kind.
Trying to better myself, I signed up for a fatherhood program. It was the best choice I’ve made in years, and the guy handing out flyers ended up being like a father to me. If it wasn’t for his guidance and faith in me, I don’t know where I would be. Coming back from a fatherhood class, I saw a little orange paper on the bus with the words: Sasha Bruce YouthBuild. I called the number listed, and went to the open house at Eastern Market Library. I learned about Sasha Bruce YouthBuild’s GED, Construction and IT program. I knew, since that day, it was something I was going to do and accomplish.
During YouthBuild’s orientation, I was going through major problems at home. I found out my little sister was talking to a boy older than me, so I immediately went into Big Brother Mode and I told her I didn’t want her around him. By protecting my little sister it caused problems in our house because it made my mother very angry. She kept criticizing me about this. One morning my mother told me not to come back to the house because she was going to change the locks on the door. I didn’t think much of it because she had said this many times before but this time, when I got home from YouthBuild, my house key no longer worked in the door.
That night I ended up staying over a friend’s house because I was determined that I was still going to school at Youthbuild. Good thing the next day was the mental toughness retreat for YouthBuild. We all went in the woods at Camp Letts so it was a vacation away from all the madness and my problems. The mental toughness retreat really helped because I tapped into my self-discipline and endurance when I needed it the most. The retreat taught me being homeless was overwhelming me. On the last day of the retreat I called my mom and asked her if I could come home. She replied that I didn’t have a home. I felt betrayed. I felt unloved. I felt furious. If it wasn’t for my case manager, Ms. Sarah, simply giving me a hug and a few words of wisdom when I needed them the most, I don’t know what would have happened.
When we got back to DC, Ms. Sarah made it her business to help me get into the Sasha Bruce shelter, Bruce House. I got in and it help me a lot, really, because I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to lay my head at night. It helped me stay in YouthBuild, and do so well I was nominated and won Vice President of our Policy Council. Recently I also got approved for Sasha Bruce’s Independent Living Program, with a little help and resources from the YouthBuild staff.
At the Independent Living Program, I will be able to live there for at least 1 and ½ years while I finish Youthbuild, my Ged and get myself on track to get a job so I can take care of myself and my new family. They teach life skills like handling money, saving and how to have better relationships. I feel secure for the first time in a long time.
So far Sasha Bruce YouthBuild has helped me build my confidence, friendships, self-discipline, and my endurance. YouthBuild is helping me change my fear of commitment and given me short term and long term goals. Sasha Bruce YouthBuild has given me the keys I need to open the door of success. I can do anything that I set my mind to. Sasha Bruce YouthBuild is molding me, supporting me, believing in me, and showing me that every voice really does matter. And the Independent Living Program will give me the chance to succeed in Youthbuild and in life. I used to be so hard on myself that I was finishing school or reaching other goals I had. I now know now that a stable, safe and welcoming place to live is so important in reaching those goals.
This is your first time seeing me and I promise you this won’t be the last time. It is an honor just to be here. I secretly envy all of you and without YouthBuild and Sasha Bruce none of this would even be possible.