During my freshman year in high school, my dad was deployed to Kuwait. I reacted in all the wrong ways. I started to get into all kinds of trouble. I was fighting with girls at school and failing my classes. I was suspended more times than I can count. My mom was stressed out and mad at me, and when I got to talk to my dad, I could tell he was disappointed. At the time, I didn't care about anyone, including myself. I was so out of control that my cousin, our friend and I jumped a girl in the locker room at school. My school suspended me and put me on probation.
That’s when I realized that I had gone too far. Fortunately, I was referred to Constance Carter at Project BUILD, which is a program that provides support and afterschool and summer activities for delinquent youth to help get us back on track.
This was a turning point in my life. Connie was always there for me, listening to me, making sure I came to BUILD, kept up with my school work and behaved myself. She always stayed positive even when I made mistakes. At BUILD, I got involved in the Becoming Women program, and was trained to counsel teenage girls who were engaged in self-destructive behavior, including drug or alcohol abuse, suicide, cutting, teen pregnancy, dating violence and eating disorders. That experience helped build my self-esteem and taught me to respect both myself and others, and how to make great choices and overcome stress and depression. I also joined Brand BUILD, which is the afterschool jewelry making program. There, I met Kaleen, who encouraged me to go to college.
Through BUILD, I got a summer internship with the Youth Council. I spent my summer organizing and planning the BUILD Board Awards, which acknowledge youth agencies in the Humboldt Park community that provide good afterschool programs and services to youth. I learned business and communication skills, and how to multi-task. We went on trips and played sports, all while preparing for the awards ceremony.
During my junior year, my dad came back. He’s now retired from the Army. My attitude has totally changed. I’m staying out of trouble and I’m focused on school. I was chosen from 1,000 applicants in 2007 as one of the Bank of America student leaders. I graduated high school, got a volleyball scholarship and just completed my first year of a nursing program. I learned volleyball through the BUILD afterschool program. Thanks to the support I got from my parents and from BUILD, I plan on graduating from college and becoming a dedicated and helpful registered nurse.