I was always intelligent. I was always different. I’m becoming the best me I can be, but I went through a lot to get here.
By the age of 13 I was sleeping in abandoned buildings with a gun. It made me cold, living like this. I survived by selling drugs and robbing because it was what I had to do. I knew it wasn’t me, but I had no other options. Growing up without a family or a community almost makes you lose hope.
When I was on the streets, I always thought, I know I can be more, I know I can do better. But I didn’t have a family or support system to help me get there. I didn’t feel I had time to do better. So I was gangbanging and going back and forth to prison.
When I was in prison serving eight years, I knew for sure this life wasn’t for me. I made the decision to arm myself with knowledge, to empower myself. I tried to become the best me I could be. My last year of prison, I pursued finding my family. I wrote my auntie asking if I could come stay with her when I got out, even though I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me. And she said yeah.
After serving my time, I moved in with my auntie and was filling out five or six applications a day and calling any number I could to try and find work. One day when I wasn’t sure where to look next, I learned about Growing Home.
I didn’t even know it was a job training program at first, I just thought it was a job. I was starting over from scratch and trying to make money, so I hoped I wouldn’t be wasting my time doing this program, picking weeds. At the end of the day, Growing Home became the best thing that ever happened to me.
With the help of Growing Home’s job training program, I earned a living while making progress toward my goals and building a strong foundation for success. Since graduating from the Growing Home program, I now have a full-time job. I have my forklift certification and my food service license. My credit score went way up. I am renting my own apartment, and in January I’ll have a car and will be starting school. I’m even hoping to share my story by writing a book someday.
If you have that drive and passion to succeed, the Growing Home community can help get you there. Now, I try to be a mentor to my family, my little cousins and nephews. I tell them, “You have to work hard. It’s okay to learn and to try and be a better person. You don’t have to be a thug. You have more options than becoming a basketball player or a rapper. You can be the president, or whatever you want to be.”
For me, I’m really trying to be successful and build myself up. And it’s happening.