How One Person Changed Me

It was over 20 years ago that this program came into my life. Now I am a grateful graduate of the University of Florida, I am a mother of 3 and am now an Assistant Principal at Sickles High School.

The kindness of strangers like my mentor and programs like the YMCA, BBBS, and TSIC has lifted me out of hopelessness, depression and shattered dreams. I am going to talk about how important the work is that every mentor does everyday. Mentors can change a child’s life forever. That’s what my mentor Sharon did for me.

The Typical Scene

I was living in HUD housing, Apartment 267, the worst street in Venice Florida known for its drugs and crime. I saw cops drive by the apartment all the time. Most of them knew me by name because they constantly came to the house after they were called by the neighbors for disturbance or by my mom to remove my dad from the home.

Loud music until 1am, drugs being shuffled from corner to corner, ladies standing on the corner doing dances all night with guys as the smoke of black and mild cigars filled the air, was the typical scene. My mother was a part of it all. She would blast the radio and brag about how good she looked. She was always drunk and would say lewd things to us. She would have us clean up the house everyday and if it wasn’t clean within her time period, we knew what time it was!! There were periods of time where I never heard my name, just curse words that described who I was to my mom as she ordered us around in judgment. I had no worth, no value. Neither did any of my brothers and sisters.

Abuse and Despair

I was the ninth out of ten children that my mother had. My mother did the best she could to raise us as a single mom, but fell short due to her sickness of alcoholism. My life was filled with physical abuse and verbal abuse. We got beat over anything!! One time, I was unmercifully beat because I didn’t clean up the whole apartment in 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES. I remember being whipped with extension cords until there were whelps all over me. There were times I would look into my mother’s eyes as she would beat me and wonder if there was still a person inside of her. Many nights of loneliness and rejection, and I never knew what I did wrong. I was overwhelmed with oppression and darkness. My life was in an ultimate moment of despair. My brothers and sisters and I never knew love; we never tasted true joy. My mother never apologized to us for beating us. Our lives were covered in hopelessness. I never saw the warm eyes of love in my mother, just eyes of hatred, bitterness and coldheartedness. I was more like an object, maybe at the status of a slave. We never knew compassion, just anger guilt and shame.

We lived in poverty. The only thing I had was school. I always looked forward to leaving home so I could pour myself into academics, activities and friends. I hated when the bell range because I knew I had to go back home and clean and take care of my mentally handicapped sister. I couldn’t start on my homework until the whole house was cleaned.

I Have to Do My Pre-Calculus Homework!!

I remember there were days when I had to do my precalculus homework and my mother didn’t care. he told me to turn off all electricity. I coudln’t listen to music, watch TV or even have the lights on. Many nights she would walk into my room and turn off the lights and slam the door. I would tell her that I was doing my pre-calculus homework and she would order me to keep the lights off or else. So, I looked around and saw the star light. I knew that the starlight was enough light for me to finish my pre-calculus homework. I was determined to do my homework regardless of my circumstances. So, it became a routine for a couple of months for me to do my pre-calculus homework in the starlight. I was determined to succeed. I made a choice to be an achiever. All I knew was that I desired to do my best, so that’s what I continued to do.

All I want for Christmas is …..a Home

On Christmas Eve, 2001, at 16, my mother, in a drunken stupor, kicked me out of the house. To the streets I went, only to be denied by my father who was a last hope for me. He told the cop that beckoned him to take me in that I wasn’t his daughter, and that they could do what they want with me. That’s when I called the YMCA Homeless Shelter my home. I remember that day like it was yesterday. All I could think to myself that I was a nobody and that nobody loved me and that I was a reject to society. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was filled with hurt, depression and excuses to quit. But I made up my mind that I would fight the urge to be average. I wasn’t going to mope in my situation and stop striving for my goals. I decided that I had to put on the strength that I possessed within. I called on Jesus and I knew he would help me be everything that I intended to be.

In the homeless shelter, I had a choice. I could make excuses and get through life on those excuses, or I could see it as an opportunity to start fresh and climb high into success. I made up my mind that I would not let that particular moment mold my life. I decided to try until something changed instead of failing to try. I knew that nothing coming from outside of me could destroy me and that I was my ultimate destroyer. So I chose to aim for the sky.

I Aimed for the Sky. I Must Succeed!

I got involved in 12 extracurricular activities, enrolled in many AP and honors courses and worked part time at Publix. Life was getting better until my grandmother, two uncles, and my brother all died within a month. Then, I said, ‘If I can get through this season in my life, I know taht I will be able to conquer anything else with God’s help. I graduated with a 4.25 GPA from Sarasota High School with Top Honors, then enrolled into the University of Florida where I majored in math and minored in saxophone performance. Now I am a high school math teacher, doing my best to inspire someone with every moment that I have. Now, I have a mentee of about 3 years who I’ve mentored since I was her teacher. I now take time to invest into her life as much as possible. All of this is possible because I had one person to believe in me in a time when I didn’t believe in myself. I had someone to dream for me when my dreams were lost in chaos. My mentor Sharon was that person!

Be Encouraged Mentors!!

I met my mentor Sharon 12 years ago. She was a life saver, that ONE PERSON I could depend on in my confusion. When we first met, I was angry. I remember slamming her car door when I first entered and rolling my eyes as she tried to converse with me. I looked at her and didn’t think she cared. I didn’t think she could help me because she hadn’t gone through what I was going through and couldn’t relate to it. I didn’t understand her kindness and her love towards me at first. Eventually, I came around. Now, I call her Mama Sharon. Do you know why I really love Mama Sharon? It’s because when nobody else wanted to take the task of mentoring me because of different excuses, she decided to stick it out and help me. One, she never judged me or made me feel like a loser. Two, she actually took time for me by listening to me and giving herself to me. She would always smile and get me little things to show her heart to me. She has a heart that flows with love and care for me. She wasn’t afraid to show that to me, and that’s why I will always love her no matter what.

As I went through my transition in the homeless shelter, my mentor Sharon wasn’t allowed to see me, but she did her best to keep in touch. That’s when I met another person who continue to help me through my crucial situation as a high school student and that’s Vicki O. It was a part of a divine plan that I couldn’t see then, but that I now understand. Vicki helped take me to the next level in my personal development. She was able to help me develop a professionalism and conduct that I hadn’t known in my mother’s house, and she motivated me with her bright smile and attitude. She would always help me get ready for scholarship interviews. Since she was a journalist, she was on top of it . She also embraced Sharon and helped me out in Sarasota as Sharon kept a watchful eye in the distance. They constantly communicated with one another and poured themselves into me. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. They remain in my village today.

The Impacting Power of One Person

All it took was love from one person, to break through the cold shell of my heart, and to bring forth a smile out of me. It had been so long since I felt love or even trusted it. It was foreign to me. But because Sharon didn’t show me how much she knew but how much she cared, I was able to soar on her arms of love, and become who I am today. I must say that her print lies deep within my heart, and will never go away. I have become a part of her family, and I will always love her. The same applies for my mentor Vicki. Though she hasn’t been my mentor for as long as Sharon, she contributed her share and has been an inspiration that has been a part of my motivation today.

After I graduated from SHS with 18 scholarships, including a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship, YMCA Scholarship and a TSIC Scholarship I graduated from UF with a B.S. in math and a minor in saxophone performance. I am now doing by best to inspire young students to make it through school and to become better than their present best. I am now giving back to my students as their teacher. I am the one person that they need to pour love into their lives and to help fill them with hope and dreams. I am the one person they need to sacrifice myself into them. I didn’t ask much 12 years ago when Sharon and Vicki stepped into my life and neither are my students.

Break the Cycle of Poverty!

Now, I am continuing the cycle of love and breaking the cycle of poverty and hate. I am pouring my love into my students and am giving them hope to dream dreams they would have never discovered on their own. I am sticking by their side through thick and thin to see them succeed in life. Because of genuine love from one person’s heart, that love has filled my heart and now is being poured into the hearts of my students and my family. The love cycle has expanded exponentially, all because of one person.

Thanks TSIC! Let’s all become that one person to change someone’s life forever!!