I graduated high school at 17 years of age. I had earned a full academic scholarship to college. I was three months’ pregnant when I walked across that stage, and no one knew but me.
College was going to be my way out of the chaos of my current life, but on that trip, the reality of my situation struck me. There was no way this was going to work. I had no idea what I was going to do.
At that point in time, things were really rough at home. A few years earlier, my mom had finally divorced my very abusive father. I simply could not tell her I was expecting. So I did the only thing I could think to do. I ran. Ran away from it all. And I didn’t look back.
By the time I got to St. Petersburg, I was about four or five months’ pregnant, and I had not even been to a doctor yet. I crashed on my sister’s couch for a while, but then plans changed. Fighting her own demons, she wanted to make some positive changes in her life. She decided to move, and that meant I was on my own, 17 and very pregnant.
She told me about ALPHA and suggested I go check it out. To be honest, at first I hated the idea of it. But I had nowhere else to go. And so in October of 1998, ALPHA House became my home. I was very lost and in deep depression. I felt like my world had ended, and I didn’t see a way out of my own tragedy. But slowly things started to change for me.
The structure of the program at ALPHA was exactly what I needed. It challenged me, it educated me, and I slowly began to heal my broken heart. I quickly progressed through the levels of the program, worked hard doing my assigned chores and volunteering up front with Ms. Margaret. I will forever have a special place in my heart for that sweet woman. The staff were stern but very kind and caring. We learned about resources available to us, how to be good moms and were required to go to work and/or to school.
After I had my son in December of 1998, I started taking classes at what was then St. Petersburg Junior College the following January. By the summertime, my sister encouraged me to think about what I was going to do next. I had gotten comfortable at ALPHA, but the reality was that I couldn’t live there forever. She wanted me to contact the university I had been accepted to and see if I could get my scholarship back. I thought that sounded foolish. Give it back to me? A year later? Yeah, right! But that is exactly what they did. I couldn’t believe it. After an appeal to then President Humphries sharing the circumstances surrounding my original decision, I was given my scholarship back.
In August of 1999, I moved to Tallahassee with my 8-month-old son and became a full-time student at Florida A&M University. It wasn’t easy but the things I learned while at ALPHA really helped me to stand on my own two feet and take my responsibilities seriously. In May of 2004, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pure Mathematics. I was proud of my accomplishment but decided not to stop there. After teaching math for a year at Tallahassee Community College, I moved to Orlando. In 2007, I graduated with a Master of Arts in Math Education and Graduate Certificates in SAS Data Mining and Community College Teaching from the University of Central Florida. I have been teaching math at Valencia College since 2005. I am now a tenured Professor of Mathematics there and a PhD candidate at UCF.
My son is 16 years old and a high school junior in an Engineering Magnet Program. He has aspirations of going to college and becoming an engineer. I am married with a beautiful family and have a great relationship with my mother, sister and brother. But one of the things I cherish most is being able to give others a second chance at life the way ALPHA did for me.