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Education Yields Gift of Hope
“Oh, I’m not going to high school.”
This was Erica’s favorite phrase in 8th grade. Her two older siblings had dropped out, so why should she go?
Her mother pushed her to continue, and eventually, Erica moved on to high school. But her attitude stayed the same.
“Oh, I’m not going to college,” became Erica’s new refrain. This time, it seemed like she meant it. Already living in a tough neighborhood, Erica began hanging out with the wrong crowd, experimenting with drugs, and arguing with her teachers.
Things also began to deteriorate at home.
Her relationship with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend was strained. Erica began to lash out when they attempted to reprimand her.
Erica’s teachers saw potential in her, and they couldn’t understand why she wasn’t more successful in her classes. It appeared as if Erica didn’t care about school. In reality, she was worried that she wouldn’t succeed. She felt hopeless.
By the time she reached her senior year, Erica was doing everything she could to escape home and school.
“I would go straight to work [after school] until one or two in the morning,” Erica says.
Tired, angry, and lost, Erica’s grades began to slip and fights with her mother continued. Until one day, Erica decided she’d had enough. She left home.
“I was just jumping from house to house and didn’t go to school for a whole week,” she says. “I just wanted to drop out and go to work.”
When she showed up tired and late to a choir recital, the school security guards asked what was wrong. They sent her to the counselor’s office, where Erica thought she would be punished. She lashed out at her counselor, expecting for the counselor to disrespect her back.
To her surprise, the counselor responded with kindness.
“It was a stranger, a stranger I was being mean to, and she actually cared about me,” she recalls. Erica told her everything. The counselor listened patiently and asked Erica what she really wanted. “I want money, a car, and a mansion,” Erica remembers telling her.
The very next day, the counselor called Erica to her office. “Erica, I got you your mansion,” she said. She was talking about Mercy Home. Part of our Walsh Girls Home used to be the Walgreen family mansion! Her counselor reached out and found out we had a spot available.
Erica couldn’t believe it. She also wasn’t sure if she was ready.
Once she arrived, Erica immediately warmed to her new environment. “I’m an organizer; I like structure,” she says. With the help of Mercy Home tutors, therapists, and after-school programs, Erica began to get back on track. She began to have hope.
That was three years ago. Now, Erica is in college majoring in social work. “I’ve become more responsible,” Erica declares proudly. “I’m thinking more about a good future. I see myself educated, with a career, and successful.”
Her relationship with her family has also improved. “I don’t disrespect [my mom] like I used to. Now I understand I’m a role model to my brothers.”
Looking back at the difficulties she faced growing up, Erica wants to help other young people in her old neighborhood by becoming a police officer. “I want to help out people [in my neighborhood] and say, ‘I know where you’re coming from.’”
The most important thing she wants to share with young people? Hope. “That’s very important, to find hope when you need it, because it’s very motivating.”
Thank you for giving Erica, and so many boys and girls like her, the gift of hope. Because of you, Erica has become an inspiring example to countless other young people.