I know I’ve been blessed. I have endured more than most, and the stories of my childhood have made people cry.
But I am here to tell you that anything is possible.
Last September I spent my first day at Pasadena City College, majoring in digital media, where I hope to transfer to UCLA. It seems like it’s taken me a lifetime to get here. But I’m here!
When I was only two, I became a foster child. The Department of Child and Family Services removed me from my mother’s care; we were living on the streets. Initially, my foster home seemed stable. However, my foster parents became abusive, and I moved again.
My whole life changed when I was five and was placed at Maryvale. I didn’t know what to expect so I decided not to expect anything so I wouldn’t be disappointed again.
I learned that Maryvale was different. Maryvale has kind and compassionate people who surround me with love.
You have to remember that I was five and used to being an only child. I was alone and comfortable with silence. But at Maryvale, I was surrounded by girls, and it was noisy and different. Although it was intimidating at first, I quickly learned that relationships form the foundation of therapy and care at Maryvale. I learned to accept and believe in the love and consideration from the staff who advocated for and comforted me; more importantly, perhaps, was that I finally learned to love myself.
I’ve been at Maryvale for 12 years; this place is the only home I’ve known. As I grew and encountered challenges, I learned the hard way that the choices we make in life can define us for a long time. Even though my childhood was troubled and far different than other children who were blessed to have a mom and dad, I knew to care for those who gave me strength.
The toughest time was when I was 12 or 13. My best friend was a bad influence on me. Instead of lifting each other up, we ended up damaging each other. When she was hospitalized and then sent to another group home, I wouldn’t eat or sleep. I felt my life had ended. I wanted to go where she went. But then I got a wake-up call!
I’m so glad my therapist was honest with me – she told me that if I didn’t turn things around now, I, too, would have to leave Maryvale forever. I loved Maryvale, and I loved my friend, but I wasn’t going to give up my life for her.
I still feel guilty about my decision, but I knew I had to control my emotions and make smarter decisions.
I realized that the girls who used their situations as a disability were getting held back in school. I didn’t want that to be me. So I charged ahead, did everything to fit in socially and studied harder.
Of course, there were days when I wanted to pull the covers over my head and plunge deeper into my depression and anxiety. I knew, though, that by doing that I would be handicapping myself because people start thinking you are incapable of doing what you know you can do.
I did whatever I had to do to get good grades, and I found out that I enjoyed school. So I tell girls who are younger than me to do the best you possibly can. Don’t let life’s challenges handicap you.
At Maryvale, I found people who never gave up on me, who gave me as much as I needed to grow – even when the road got rough for those caring for me. For a long time, I didn’t believe I could make it. But I did. I’m going to get somewhere. Wait and see.