A home for Shaqulla

Hello friends and family,

     This is Alicia Sterling, a teacher, social worker and single mother in Eugene, Oregon. I am writing to help support Shaquilla Matthews on her quest for a new home and new future. All proceeds will go directly toward the downpayment and purchase of Shaqulla's 1st home just outside of Atlanta, GA. I hope this finds you all as well as can be during this crazy time. And please excuse the lengthy email but if you stick with me, hopefully, it will be worthwhile.

     I'm writing on behalf of my "daughter." I use parentheses because I have never officially adopted her but she has been my baby girl for 21 years. I met Shaqulla when she was 3 years old and I was interning at the CJ Peete housing project in New Orleans while earning my MSW. I befriended her mother and flew them to visit me In Washington DC when I lived there and picked them up after Hurricane Katrina and housed them in Denver with me. Shaqulla has experienced more than any young person ever should  in extremely turbulent and harmful circumstances but she perseveres and is currently buying a home and needs help.

Here is a VERY abbreviated version of her story to let you know why I'm reaching out to you:

     Shaqulla was born to a 17-year-old mother who was a subject of abject poverty in an extremely poor and violent housing project community. Her mother did the best she could and received her nursing degree but over time, life in the projects ate away at her. During Katrina, Shaqulla was 11, inquisitive, intelligent, and feisty just like her mother who, unfortunately, started to channel all of her lifelong frustrations into her daughter, blaming her for things far beyond a young girl's capacity. When they moved in with me tensions were already extremely high - prior to the hurricane Shaqulla was living with her paternal grandmother. On the eve of Hurricane Katrina her mother abruptly picked her up and they fled to Baton Rouge. They were estranged before they we arrived in Denver and tension mounted. We drove out to California for Christmas and  there her mother finally snapped. Shesaid, "I'm done!" and got on a bus and left.

    Qulla lived with me for the next 6 months or so. I tried to adopt her legally but with a living parent in her "right mind", the courts would not allow her to simply be signed over. I had to bring her back to her mother who, after a few months, took her via bus to her father's home in the south where he was soon to be released from prison.

     Over the ensuing years, Shaqulla was bounced from home to home. She experienced violence, sexual abuse, hatred, manipulation. She entered the foster care system in Georgia just after I had given birth to Ben. I did not have the resources or the healthy marriage to bring her to Denver so I loved and supported her from afar as best I could. I never felt it was even close to enough but it was all I could do.

     Shaqulla, who did not like school at all and could have taken many a destructive path, found strength through faith. She steered clear of alcohol, drugs, sex, and negativity. She forced herself through school, changing many, many locations due to her changing living situations and graduated high school. THEN, my little "I hate reading and writing" baby, enrolled in college and battled her way against all odds to graduation a year ago.

     She is a consummate planner and worked a long while to earn a Technical College diploma in early childhood education and a Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies. She worked many jobs, endured a domestic violence incident by being stabbed, and studied abroad in Germany all while battling crushing anxiety and depression. I could not be prouder of anyone I've ever known. This past year she took on a Residence Hall Director position at Clark Atlanta University, her alma mater, in order to receive free tuition the following year for her Master's Degree in Education. She finally learned to drive and bought herself a car. She has fallen in love and over the years she and DJ have shared their traumas and found out how to support one another. Beautifully, they plan to be married.

     The RD (Residence Hall Director) life was NOT appealing given the round-the-clock nature so she applied to many programs and got accepted to Teach for America and the KIPP Metro Atlanta Teaching Residency. She enrolled in the KIPP program for on-the-job teacher training because she wants to be there for young people experiencing the darker side of life. She is finishing out her RD stint in the dorms without students and has become quite frustrated at trying to find affordable rental housing in Atlanta. Rent is almost double what some mortgages can be so, being the remarkable,  25-year old that she is, she dedicated herself to buying a house.

     We were on the phone a week ago talking through the immense challenges currently facing our nation and while she was telling me all about the home she is under contract for, another call beeped in. She came back on the line distraught because KIPP is canceling her program this year due to COVID-19. She has to move out of the dorm at the end of July, DJ is currently working 12 hours a day in a warehouse  but she no longer has an income to qualify for the home loan. We talked about options and within half an hour she was applying to different programs while trying to catch her breath from crying so hard.

    I am so happy to share that due to her great standing with KIPP she was hired on the spot last Friday for the Ethos Classical Associate teaching program at her same original salary! Now the challenge is purchasing the home. The $125,000 home is, in her words, "in the GHETTO," outside of Atlanta but it's completely redone and close to where DJ works. As she has gone through her lending process, however, she's been informed that she will need to come up with additional money for the down payment. Which brings us to my request:

   Her biological family can't help her and rent in Atlanta would be almost double the cost of monthly mortgage. She is a first-generation  college graduate and Masters candidate as well as a first time Home Buyer.

Please, please, if you can, help my baby girl purchase her home and obtain her first sense of security in 15 years. If I had the money I would pay it all for her. Her heart and soul and spirit have inspired me more than words can express. They have $3,000 saved and are working overtime and saving every penny. But close to $7,000 is required.  My hope is to raise the entire $7,000 so they can keep their savings for a small cushion and raise additional funds for furniture and home goods - they have none because they've been living in dorm.

48694738_1591734201570134_r.jpeg48694738_1591734227742877_r.jpeg48694738_1591734254747672_r.jpeg48694738_1591734273490005_r.jpegThey are incredibly diligent with money and both dream of working with disadvantaged youth to provide the same guidance and support they received from teachers and social workers.  Both of these young people want to make the world better, safer and stronger.

     In this era of uncertainty and unrest I hope with all my heart and soul to find a way to help this phenomenal young couple build a life that helps them heal themselves and in turn, parts of our broken society. And in some small way, I hope to alleviate some of their struggles.

  She is set to close at the end of the month and we need to secure these funds within the next week and a half. It's not my style to ask for money (or hers) but to help her finally feel some sense of stability and to know how loved she is, I would move mountains. 

 I cannot begin to thank you enough for reading this and for being the amazing person you are in my life. I'm sorry I'm not more present. My goal right now is to keep my babies afloat, Ben  is graduating from 5th grade and is almost as tall as me! In addition, a former student has become my second non-adopted daughter and lives in the garage of my 856 square foot fixer-upper. She is also an amazing spirit and, much like Shaqulla, makes the world a better, richer place. I am extremely blessed and hope to pay this forward.

     Respectful of these uncertain times, any amount you can contribute would be beyond helpful and if there is anyone you know who might also be able to assist I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass this along. I will keep a close record of donations and unfortunately, these contributions are not tax-deductible but, if the sale falls through, I will return the  money to you immediately. You will absolutely be investing in a better world by directly changing the lives of two vibrant, passionate committed service providers who have dedicated themselves to fighting racial injustice and inequality.

Thank you and I love you!



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Alicia Sterling 
Eugene, OR
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