Youth Connections, an organization that empowers teens through essay writing to express their feelings and grow, is honoring two of our clients for their exceptional essays. Here are excerpts from the two award winners:

Danaysia: Determination with NO Motivation

These questions will be answered indirectly in a story, giving some insight on who I am as a person. I may not be the smartest person ever, or the prettiest. However, through the years I’ve somehow found the strength to pick myself up each day and to strive for a change in my life and others. Many times I would sit and wonder, why I was given this life of sadness, despair, and loneliness?

At the age of 16 I had to make the hardest decision of my life to leave my mother, the only person I had ever known. She may have been very verbally and physically abuse, but she was my mother, she had good days and bad. I realized if I had any chance of graduating high school, I would have to go into foster care in order to have a stable home.

Once I graduated from Park East High School and began my first year of college, I had a hard time transitioning from one home to another, but I still attended my classes. At my new home, I met this girl and she seemed very nice at first, but as time progressed, she became very jealous of my strength and “go, get it personality.” I tried to motivate her as well and tell her to not let people use her and to want more for yourself, but we ended up in a fight. Afterwards, I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad with myself for letting her take me there. I wasn’t practicing what I preached.

Then I found a new strength and discovered a new person, a new beauty. One I never seen before and I embraced it. I left my abusive boyfriend, I signed up for New York Cares and participated in several of the projects. I went back to my high school to talk to the seniors who were now in the predicament that I was once in, to give them some of my wisdom. I was able to love those who didn’t love me, I kept my head up and my smile wide. I discovered the young lady, now woman, that I had lost so long ago. I was renewed. If you take anything from this essay, let it be that you are amazing as you are and if you think you can, just change “I think” into “I know.” Have a dream and keep the hope alive.

Miranda: My Life. College and Ms. Fryer

Making things better in your life doesn’t always work out in your favor. There’s always something to throw you off track and you end up right back where you started. I went down a struggling path a thousand times and back. Somehow, I always succeeded in getting back up from a challenging situation. However, I managed to change my life for the better by simply making one decision, going to college. Why?

Because there is always going to be something keeping you on track. It’s called focusing on your work! But, how was I going to do that? Who was going to help me? Is it worth it? Can I just change my mind whenever I feel like it? Am I going to be in debt? In order to do that, I needed to learn how to cope, and with the help of Ms. Fryer, I was on my way….

Going to college felt like that first sip of water from the fountain after gym class let out. I wanted to major in the nursing field because of my love for helping people. Every morning my social worker at JCCA, Ms. Fryer, would say, with tough love in her voice, “Get up for school, so you can be somebody in life!” That motivated me to make my life better in that very moment.

And it did! I was accepted into Westchester Community College and JCCA provided me with the transportation and other miscellaneous funds for additional necessities. It felt as if the gold rested in my hands at the end of the rainbow, instead of in the pot. This was my feeling of success. Hence, this was how my life in care led me to college with the help of Ms. Fryer.