Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Victories define the woman I am today.”

Last week, the Homeboy community was excited to share a special moment with one of our trainees. Rasheena’s determination paid off when she graduated with an AA in business, and it was an honor to watch her hold up the diploma that arrived in the mail. 

Rasheena was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her parents were drug addicts and career criminals, in and out of prison for as long as she could remember. Her grandmother raised Rasheena and her ten siblings. Rasheena’s grandmother was the only person she could rely on, and when she passed away unexpectedly three days before Christmas, Rasheena was left with nowhere to go and a whirlwind of emotions. Rasheena reluctantly went to live with her parents. Living there, she was exposed to their dangerous lifestyles and for the most part, left home alone, a place where she started experimenting with drugs at age twelve. In this unsupervised environment, Rasheena was also sexually abused by one of her brothers. She spent the next years in a cycle of manipulation and abuse. 

Though supportive family members moved in and out of her life, the instability and trauma in Rasheena’s life caused mental instability and bouts of depression. She turned to the streets, began to skip school daily to get high, trying to numb the pain and disgust she felt. She got involved with gangs because there she felt loved and protected.

Rasheena’s mother, whom she had become close with again after high school, passed away suddenly after Rasheena recovered from a devastating car accident. This sent Rasheena’s world spinning, and she participated in a crime that led to her incarceration. Rasheena was sentenced to 6 years and 8 months in prison, leaving her daughter alone just as her mother had done to her. Realizing the error of her ways and having grown tired of running from her past, Rasheena vowed to be stronger, no longer falling victim to others around her.

In March of 2012, Rasheena paroled. Her history and background caused doors to shut everywhere. She lost all hope because she could not find a job and did not know what direction her life would take. Finally, she found Homeboy, which she refers to as the “extraordinary place of chances”. 

The moment she walked through the doors she felt at peace as learned more about all of the services they offer. She began attending the majority of the self help classes offered, and became a part of the 18 month trainee program.
While at Homeboy Rasheesa is able to work on herself while also gaining employment skills, helping her to become a more productive member of society. Homeboy Industries has given her a chance to start a new life, with great opportunities that “are hers for the taking.”

Rasheena received the diploma she earned in the Spring last week. She plans to continue furthering her education. She has found a true safe-haven in Homeboy Industries and has developed the courage to finally speak out, hoping to reach out and help victims of abuse everywhere. Rasheena wants to share this advice: “when faced with life’s difficulties, always remember you’re not alone, your life is a precious gift, you too can achieve anything as long as you keep an open mind to life’s countless possibilities. Always remember no matter the hardship life throws our way, I am a living witness that time heals all wounds. Never again will I allow the horrors of my past to define me. I’ve broken through my barriers victoriously and these victories define the woman I am today.”