I grew up in a home with my mom and two younger siblings. My mother spent most of my childhood in the throes of drugs and alcohol addiction, creating a situation where I had to care for my siblings.
But something happened that would change the trajectory of my future. She got clean the summer before my senior year.
For the first time, my mother was present. And surprisingly, her presence made all the difference in my life. Suddenly, I went from going to school just to get out of the house to going to school to actually get an education.
But it was almost too late. I was a senior. Prior to my senior year, I produced just enough work to keep from flunking out completely. A terrible student, school was not on my top-three list of things that really mattered. My first priorities were my brother and sister and then my mom.
Oh, and I also self-medicated with boys and booze. I spent a lot of time making bad decisions and suffering the consequences.
But in August 1988, I entered my high school a new girl. I allowed myself to be a 17-year-old girl as well as a student, a cheerleader, a member of the French and Business clubs, and president of the Afro-American history club. Actually, my mother’s courage and strength to battle her demons allowed me to be me.
That’s the power of an engaged parent in the life of a child.
To this day, my allegiance is to families who, in the face of poverty and societal ills, fight to beat the odds using every weapon available to them. I will stand, scream and battle alongside these families until the day I die because I know the victory that awaits them.