At 11 years old, I didn’t understand why my parents were divorcing. I didn’t know my dad was an alcoholic, only that he was diabetic, and my parents would argue a lot. I do remember moving from Kokomo to Indianapolis to live with my mother and her new boyfriend. It was a complete culture shock. I went from the home I had always known, a small town in a small neighborhood with friendly faces, to a larger city where I suddenly felt alone and out of place.
Around this age, I was trying to figure out who I was as a person and who I wanted to be. Meanwhile, my home life was getting worse. My mom and I moved constantly. Between ages 12 and 17, we must have lived in 5 different places around Indianapolis. My mom ended up becoming addicted to drugs.
My life was spiraling in an uncertain direction and by high school, I fell in with the wrong crowd.
By my junior year, I fell off track to graduate. I didn’t like school or want to be there, so I skipped. Because things had been so tough at school and home for so long, when I was 17, my mom signed the papers for me to withdraw.
I went back to Kokomo to live with my father. He worked but wasn’t really a parent. I still didn’t feel supported, so as soon as I was legally an adult, I moved back to Indianapolis. I wound up working at a McDonald’s, where I met a boy and became pregnant with my first son, Mareon.
This is when my life started to turn around. In being pregnant, I realized I wanted more for my child. It became clear that it was time to get my life together. By the time Mareon was one, I was taking GED classes. I ended up getting my GED, with the second highest score in my class. I suddenly understood the importance of education.
I was proud of myself for that, but knew I had a long road ahead. I wanted my son to have a stable life, so I stayed in the same apartment for about 10 years, from the time he was a toddler until I was pregnant with my second son and needed more space.
But when we moved, it came like a flashback. Though our stories are different, I noticed the parallels. My oldest son was in a culture shock now and he fell in with the wrong crowd, just as I had. He struggled with being bullied, feeling like he was being treated differently because of his race, and a lack of feeling like his teachers cared about his success. While he didn’t finish school, he did eventually also get his Diploma.
Proud of my oldest son and wanting to be 100% positive my younger son Dominic would never withdraw from school one day, I decided to get more involved with his education. That’s how I eventually became a Stand Fellow, through the realization that our schools do have injustices and not every school is a great school. And through Stand Indiana, I’ve been able to do more to be able to help my son succeed and get the same type of education more privileged children get.
Dominic is in the 6th grade now, and he’s doing well in school. I’ve learned when you show your kids that you’re there, they perform better, and it also gives the school support while holding them accountable. I’ve learned I have a voice and I can use it to make positive changes for my son. As a community, we can push for the changes our children need to ensure each one of our children attends a great school that will set them up for a successful future.