Your childhood was not an easy one. What, if anything, do you feel you learned from it?
I tell people: Don’t let what you’ve been through stop you from becoming a greater you. You don’t have to let your past decide your future.
How do your experiences with JCCA still influence you today?
JCCA played a big part in my life and it means a lot to me to be able to give others the support and care I was given in my youth. I want to be someone who can identify with children in vulnerable situations and not judge them. Sexual abuse is a sensitive subject. My message to survivors is: what happened to you wasn’t OK, but it doesn’t determine the rest of your life. There’s sunshine after the rain. There are people that care for you and you can still make something of yourself.
What are your best memories of life at Pleasantville?
There were staff that really cared about the kids and wanted to see us go on in life and become something. There were staff who took time to speak with us, who took time to listen. In those situations, oftentimes children just want to be heard. It can feel as though we don’t have a voice. There were people who took time to understand and encourage me.
What do you appreciate about your time with JCCA?
JCCA didn’t make us feel like we were just foster kids who didn’t really matter. They took time to throw events and make sure we had normal teenage experiences. We had social lives, went to holiday parties, and played sports. They didn’t make us feel like we were less than those in the outside world.
What are you up to these days?
I recently started a program called Bee-Coming. We meet on weekends and our goal is to provide a loving and nurturing environment (like a beehive) that helps kids stay off the streets and achieve their full potential. We offer dance, arts and crafts, basketball, and confidence-building. We also offer kids a chance to talk openly about the issues they are dealing with: self-esteem, peer pressure, or whatever else is on their minds. We recently held a Christmas Ball where the children performed and in March we’re hosting a basketball tournament. So I’ve got a lot going on!