My childhood was different than most. I was on a first name basis with the local police officers given my parents’ infamy in my community which, unfortunately, was completely out of my control. Unlike many of my friends, I did not have the luxury of home cooked meals and bedtime stories. I did not grow up with a father figure, as my dad left my mom when I was three, and has been in and out of jail ever since. Over time, I transitioned from a child to an adult visitor at the county jail and came to recognize it as my father’s only home. My mother worked from dusk till dawn, and what little time I was able to spend with her was usually witnessing her alcoholism. She introduced my siblings and me to numerous men, each of whom I hoped would be the stable, parental figure I needed, but sadly they all proved to be far less than a role model.
Given my parents’ financial and general irresponsibility, my younger sister and I were shuffled between relatives, hotels, and various apartments. Being constantly neglected forced me to become an adult earlier than I would wish for anyone. I became the primary caretaker for my sister which pushed me to develop my own values and morals so I could be the positive role model I had always hoped for. Feeding her, helping with homework, and putting her to bed became my daily responsibilities – tasks that were difficult to manage while balancing a job, extracurriculars, and school work. I had to exercise good and independent judgement on a daily basis. My responsibility as an older sister became my motivation to excel in school. I knew the best way to demonstrate the importance of education would be to lead by example.
The support of my friends has also been instrumental in keeping me on a healthy and rewarding path. I am fortunate to have a strong core group of friends who push me to achieve the goals I have set for myself and who help me strive for excellence. When a close friend of mine took his life last year, it became apparent to me that unfortunately not everyone who faces struggles like mine feels as supported. His death has had a meaningful impact on me and really changed my perspective overall. It has made me realize that I am fortunate for my sister, my strength, my leadership skills, and my dedication to my studies. It also taught me that I need to live life according to my own aspirations, and become the community member, adult, and overall role model for others that I wish I had the privilege of learning from as a child.
Earning my college degree will allow me to pursue my own dreams, my own future, and my own family. I know that I have control over my life and I will not allow myself to be sucked into the troubled environment in which I grew up. Witnessing my mother's constant wild outbreaks and my dad’s countless arrests pushes me to be the first in my family to go to college. I want to pursue an education so that I can expand my knowledge and better my future. I will continue to rise above the poverty and neglect I’ve endured to prove that students who face challenges can excel and reach their goals.