The following speech was given at the Honoring Ceremony this year by one of our high school graduates who attended school at New Horizons Education Program while living at Independence Place with her daughter. Her words are an amazing testament to Lund’s programs and staff members but more importantly, give first hand insight into the journey of a mother who was determined to make a better life for herself and her daughter and to take full advantage of the opportunities she had worked so hard to get.
“If I have learned anything in my 24 years of existence, it’s that if you want something enough, you fight for it. Nothing is handed to you, at least nothing worth having. Starting in May of 2014 I called Lund about a few times a week for several months. I remember one day in particular. After awhile of calling I was sick of everyone telling me that there were no apartments available. I had to hear it from Tammy’s [Santamore, Learning Together Coordinator who oversees Independence Place] mouth herself, and I was going to make a point to her that I needed to get into Lund. Finally she called me back, I cried and I begged. I remember sitting on a tiny bed in a tiny smoky room with a pad of paper listening to her tell me of other options, because there was only 7 apartments and none were vacant.
It was the day before thanksgiving when I finally heard from Tammy again. It was about 4 maybe 5 in the evening and she said that an apartment was finally available and if I could come in. I said of course! I don’t know how long it’s going to take me but I’ll get there! So in a snowstorm, in beat up rusty car with no winter tires I drove to Lund. By January 1st I was unpacking boxes in my new apartment. This is when I started school at NHEP. [New Horizons Education Program]
Growing up I attended over 12 different schools. High school alone I attended 5 different schools. I dropped out in October of 2010. I suffered from severe panic attacks and I couldn’t go to school without spending the day in the nurse’s office hyperventilating. After spending two weeks in the hospital I just couldn’t get my panic attacks under control so I stopped going to school. After leaving I tried other programs, but they didn’t work for me.
My first day at NHEP I couldn’t have felt more welcomed. Everyday I was surrounded by such an amazing group of women. I was blown away by how strong every single one of these women were. I couldn’t believe that many of these women were sitting in school with their newborn babies and trying to focus on their work. Meeting the needs of their newborn and education at the same time. As if school and parenting separately aren’t hard enough. You spend so much time together that you learn each other’s stories, and dreams, and it gives you hope. You see how much they have struggled, yet they are sitting in front of you smiling and holding on to every inch of hope that they could possibly grasp. And the teachers. Well, Mary, Kathy, Anne, and Kelsey are probably the best teachers you could ask for. Life changing to have them as teachers, honestly. They challenged, inspired, motivated, and supported you in a perfect balance. They made learning enjoyable, and with so many gaps in my education from attending so many different schools, learning was hard for me; but they teach you in a way that you can understand. But most importantly they make you want to learn.
Living at Independence Place and attending NHEP you get an abundant amount of support. Once a month sometimes even twice a month you have to sit at a table and sit face to face with a team of people. For me it was 5 wonderful women. This is where they tell you how awesome your doing and what you need to work on. Sometimes you leave with a smile on your face, and sometimes you leave crying and wanting to rip your hair out. It truly depends on how hard you have been working, and how hard you’ve worked the program. These meetings are what kept me going. They don’t let you get off easy. And though sometimes I hated it, I secretly loved it at the same time. Because I knew that they were telling me to do better because they wanted to see me on this stand today, not because they wanted to make me feel bad.
7 months after graduating I’ve finished a work placement here at Lund, I’ve moved out of Independence place, I’ve started my secondary education, and I’ve gotten a full time job. I’ve met wonderful people and maintained friendships with them. I am thankful everyday that my daughter and I had this experience, and we were given this opportunity. And now I have the skills, and the resources to continue to fight for who I want to be, and what I want from life. Thank you”