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Scholarship Essay

I am 18 years old and I go to Pocono Mountain east. I am in the 12th grade and this is MY story.

I was born April 7, 1994 in the Bronx, NY. I came down to Pennsylvania when I was 3 for a better life. I've been in Pennsylvania for the last 15 years of my life. I have 5 sisters and 4 brothers. We all have different fathers but we all came out the same mother. I've had a pretty [expletive] life. So, the one thing I will not say is that my life is worse than anyone else. There is someone out there going through the same thing, maybe even worse.

My mother's name is Margaret Vasquez. My mom was bipolar. She would always beat me and my sister Girlie. My mom was a hard worker. I never got to see her a lot because she was always working, but when she was home, you did not want to make her mad. My mom always told me "I brought you into this world and I will take you out if I have to." I know she was a little crazy because of all the things she had us do. She was the only one making the money and taking care of 9 kids.

I had a stepdad named Steve. He did not work. He got locked up for like 5 years. I don't know why. No one talks about it so I don't ask. All I know is he can't get a job because no one is willing to hire him. So he did not help out much. He would fix cars if people ask him to. He is a little crazy too, only when he gets drunk.

There was this tone time I saw my dad pull out a gun and put it to my mom's face. My mom and dad would fight a lot and that made me a pretty mad kid. So there would be times when my mom said she loved us, but she always took stuff out on my sister and I. She was very heavy with her hand, if you know what I mean.

I would never get time for myself. I would have to cook or clean, braid the kids' hair or help my mom get ready for work. At night, I was always doing something. Most of the time I never got to do homework. There just wasn't time. At the time, I did not care because I would have to take care of the house. I was always fighting in school. I was so mad I hated my life. I never had nice clothes like all the kids in school. I was just sad and mad all the time.

There would be times I would go to school with bruises on my arm and back. Children and Youth would always come to my house. My mom always thought that I or my sister told on her and we would get a big beating. Then, the next day she would take my sister and I out to eat and tell us she loved us. She said we had to fix what we did. So I would have to go back to the school and tell them it was all a lie and we just wanted some attention.

I had a big house. There were a lot of us in the house. There were some nights I would go to sleep hungry. We had so little food in the house. I would feed all the babies and if there was food left, I would eat. If not, I would just eat in school. Sometimes I would go to a friend's house to eat when my mom went to work and all the kids were in bed. I would go next door.

We had roaches or some people call them water bugs. When we came down from the city, they came with us. We always bombed the house, but they never died. None of my friends would come over because of the roaches. All the kids would make fun of me and my house. So all I knew was to fight. I would rather have people afraid of me than to keep picking on me.

At the age of 12, my mom made me my first drink. By the time I was 14, I was smoking weed and cigarettes. I was drinking all the time. I did not care about my life. I would party all the time. I just had to do what I had to do. It was at one of these parties that I was raped by five men who were 20 and 21. I was with my cousin who was 15. We had to go to court over the whole thing.

When I was 15, I got locked up because I got in a fight that was between my mom and my sister. My dad tried to beat my sister so I got in it to try and help. My mom kicked my sister out of the house, but not me. At the time, I did not want my sister to go through what I was going through. It would kill me if my sister got raped, so I went with her. She was my best friend and my sister. We went to our friends and asked her mom to call the cops. We thought we would have a better life, but no, that didn't happen. When we went to court, my mom lied and said we ran away. The judge looked at all my fighting and locked the both of us up. It was just going to be for a month, but a week later I got a call that my mom died. All I can say is I went crazy. I lost it. She was my life. I don't know how to explain it, but yes, I have a bad life, but that was my mom. I went crazy! So my placement went from 1 month to 3 months to 6 months to 11 months. I was fighting all the time. I did not care any more about anyone or myself. I did not care where I was going to end up. I just did not care. All my brothers and sisters thought that my sister and I killed my mom. She had a heart attack and died on my baby sister who was just 3 at the time. All hell broke loose! We lost the house and my dad was sleeping with another woman. He lost it and my family went crazy. I was still in placement.

By the time I got out, I did 11 months. I did not go home. I didn't have a home. All my brothers and sisters think that I gave my mom a heart attack. My sister Lisa could not take care of me. She has 4 kids on her own. She smoked weed and couldn't even take care of herself, so she didn't need me. One of my brother's, Junior, lived with that sister. He had no job and dropped out of school at 15 when she got pregnant. My sister Girlie got out of placement and she went to live with my older brother, Milton. He did get a GED, but he was a fighter. He was kicked out of school for getting into so many fights. He got in a fight with Girlie over the death of my mother. He blamed me and my sister.

I couldn't live with my stepdad because he was in love with his new girlfriend. He took his own kids and took my mentally challenged brother Chris to live with him. Chris is the brother that I really love. He was damaged when my brother's father was on drugs and pushed my mother down the steps when she was pregnant with Chris.

So I had to go into foster care. There was ok and many bad times in this placement. Basically, it is a roof over my head. If I get sick, I can't go to the doctor's until I am so sick or in pain that I can't stand it anymore. Then my foster mom might take me to the hospital. She waited so long this spring when I had an ear ache that both ears got so infected that I had to get tubes put in them so that I could hear. I was almost deaf. She always takes care of her own kids. I am like a real life Cinderella doing all the work in the house. I am right back where I was with my mom. I do all the work and take care of everything.

So, what am I doing now? I am not fighting anymore. I go to school and I am going to graduate and go to Lincoln Technical College for Medical Assistant. I am going to get an apartment and live on my own. I will not be like my family. I want a good life. Look out world, here I come.

Nomination Letter

Alexis began with Project One to Won in 2008. At that time, she was referred to our program for PTSD from alleged abuse and for constant physical fighting with peers. She was defiant and disrespectful to authority figures as well as her peers. She was constantly being written up for her negative behaviors.

Alexis came from a large extended family that was very close but had significant maladaptive patterns. Alexis had many strengths such as an outgoing personality, willingness to work on obtaining skills, a great sense of humor, hard worker, good student and a loyal friend.

Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to work with Alexis for very long because she was thrown out of her house by her mother and then her mom stated to the police that she and her sister had "run away". This prompted authorities to institutionalize her. While she was in a residential setting, her mother suddenly and tragically passed away. (It is part of our services to follow students wherever they go so there is a continuum of care until they return to our district). Children and Youth/Probation were not going to allow her to come to her mother's funeral due to the fact that they were afraid she would run away. YAP staff worked with authorities to make sure she could come to her funeral as this was unacceptable that they would not let her say goodbye and grieve with her family. At one point, their solution was to take her in hand cuffs, clear out the funeral home and let her come in by herself, again an unacceptable solution. YAP staff negotiated a solution that they would be there to work with Alexis and authorities to make sure that this tragic event could go as smoothly as possible and that Alexis would be treated with dignity and respect at her mother's funeral and be allowed to grieve in as natural a way as possible. Eventually, this was allowed and Alexis had her day with her family and friends with YAP staff to support her.

Several months later Alexis came back to us. It was now 2009 and she was a sophomore in high school. Alexis had a very difficult year and spent most of it in a major depression, due to the fact that her mother had passed away, her family had split apart and she was now in foster care. With each passing month and year Alexis improved. She began to implement the skills that were being taught and began to set goals for her life.

In the last two years, she has not been in one physical altercation, she hardly ever gets written up and when she does it is because she left wrappers on the table and forgot to throw them away during her breakfast at school. Alexis is a completely different child and while she still has to work on her self-esteem and is very nervous about her future, she has been able to set concrete goals and has been accepted into Lincoln Technical Institute for Medical Assisting. Her ultimate goal is to be a dental hygienist.

Not many people believed Alexis would make it at Pocono Mtn. School District, but she proved them all wrong and on 6/8/12 she walked with her graduating class smiling and happy!