My life has been nothing of the ordinary, however, I have managed to survive and rise above the tragedies. My life is like basketball, I have the ball but it’s up to me to establish a well bounded environment surrounded by positivity in order to score.
From birth, life was hard; the man that I knew as my father denied being my father. While I have an older sister who shares the same father, he completely denied and alienated himself from me, even though he was supportive to my sister. This was a slap in the face. Without my father I felt alone in the world. I developed a serious anger problem. I punched walls and threw chairs in classrooms to release my hostility. This behavior continued into my early teenage years until I finally learned that I could not stay mad for the rest of my life. I turned to sports, poetry, songwriting, music, and community service to release the built up aggression I had towards my father and to overcome stressful situations in my life.
While my own father didn’t claim me, my great grandfather, Poppy, did. Poppy was my father figure. He taught me how to be a man. He taught me the importance of working and providing not just myself but for others. Poppy was my role model; he was the quintessential man. He was honorable and I wanted to embody everything he was so I might one day be that man. Before I knew it I was starting to blossom into that man. My mother worked long hours trying to provide for our family, so at home I was the parent to my younger siblings. I made sure their homework was done and that they stayed out of trouble. Even though we lived paycheck to paycheck, I chose not to take the easy way out like some of my friends in Richmond and solve money problems by selling drugs and joining local gangs.
In 2003 life seemed like it was improving. My mother married a seemingly wonderful man and we moved into a better neighborhood. But by 2005, this fairy tale family came crashing down when my stepfather had an affair and left my mother with a new baby and all the bills. We were forced to move back to Richmond where I started school at Middle College High School (MCHS). With all the problems going on in my house, it was even more difficult and frustrating to transition to another school, but I was determined.
Last year Poppy died, which again turned my world upside down. Before Poppy died, I watched him get weaker and weaker in the hospital. After many surgeries, he had over one million dollars worth of metal in his body, but it was ultimately not enough. After Poppy’s death, it seemed like only yesterday when before jump ball I looked up and there he was sitting in the front row wearing his favorite sweatshirt, giving me thumbs up and wishing me luck. Realizing life is short, I became even more determined to get out of the bad neighborhood and I found education was the gateway.
Since my Poppy’s death, I have learned to enjoy life and make the best of it. I attend Middle College High School, where I am on track to receive my Associates of Arts degree in Liberal Studies when I graduate high school. Middle College has also exposed me to community service. I am in Empowerment Through Action (ETA), a club that comes up with different activities and events to better help our campus, students, and community. I am very passionate about ETA because I am doing something that benefits my community. The ETA team educates younger teenagers about the importance of safe sex and ways to overcome peer pressure. I am co-chair and coordinate events and help plan the meeting agenda. I am also a member of leadership club on campus. I’m working on a project for younger kids to take classes from me on how to get involved in positive activities rather than drugs or even just doing nothing.
As I prepare to go off to college, I am filled with much joy and excitement. I only wish my Poppy was here to see my dreams preparing to take flight. Poppy always told me I was “a gift from God”, and I believe that I am. My life goal is to help others in the way that Poppy helped me. I intend to major in Psychology and become a social worker helping troubled teens. As an African American male who has risen above so much, I feel that it is my duty to give others a positive role model like Poppy gave to me. Even though the ball is in my court I need the support of a team to better help me get the ball in the hoop. My Poppy was and still is one of my teammates. And as a leader on this team, I will continue to grow and gain strength in the areas needed to become a dominate force to be reckoned with.