For most of my life, I have been described by those closest to me as “the best of the worst.” Interesting, right? But before you let yourself believe that I was without love, care, or a support system – let me explain. I grew up in inner-city Boston and without trying too hard or venturing too far, my peer circle included those who exist at the margins of acceptable societal norms. My family believed in me and gave me a foundation for success, but they also knew that in our community, while everything wasn’t bad, trouble and troublemakers were not hard to find.
What many look at as sketchy, perhaps even a dangerous environment, always felt very normal to me. I would like to think it’s because I can see past a person’s situation or even their actions, to see an individual’s heart and character. It’s like Tupac Shakur said, “roses can grow from concrete,” you know?
Let me demystify a few notions of what many people think of when they track the path of my economic highs and lows. I am college educated with a degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University. I am a homeowner. I have a good government job. By most accounts, I’m doing pretty well. But I know what it’s like to not have enough and even though my insufficiency doesn’t define me, it has absolutely affected me and motivated me to be the best version of myself for me and my two kids; and it also is a part of the equation that adds up to me seeing the potential in others and wanting to help them be the best version of themselves. Yes, it is a calling!
My day job is working within the Mayor’s Office. I recruit and service youth, helping them navigate barriers to being healthy, being in school and ultimately finding gainful employment. It is meaningful work but yes, it is challenging work. I seem to get kids facing some of the biggest challenges in the city.
For example, I was working with a young lady for over six weeks before I saw her full face. She literally got in my car or came to my office with a ski mask on, not trusting me or feeling comfortable enough to show me her face. Another kid under my watch proudly boasts of her charge of assaulting a police officer. Again, it is hard work!
But I am undaunted by the challenges I am confronted with daily. I can see past the gruff exteriors of these kids and the mistakes they have made because I know there is potential greatness in our young people if they’re simply given some structure, some skills, and someone who believes in them.
The outreach work that I am committed to does not pay well and to make ends meet, I must maintain my side hustles and multiple streams of income. I also have to lose precious time with my own two kids, Jacob and Gabrielle. So it is not easy, but it is worth it.
My message to the young people I work with is simple – you are worth it! I let them know that it is ok to stumble but failure is not an option. Success stories include everything from one of the students I support going to school for a week straight – which may seem small, but is a big deal – to a teen entering drug rehab. I celebrate each and every win and realize that even though I could be doing other things with my time and my life, I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.
My relationship with UpTogether allows me the opportunity to continue the work that I am called to and passionate about without worrying about where my next meal is coming from. UpTogether taught me how to network better, how to tell my story effectively and the initial investment went a long way toward helping me purchase my first home.
I see too many kids believing the notion that they are not enough. But I am from these same streets, and I know that falsehood is simply society's way of trying to cap our abilities and our potential.
The place you are born, the economic class you are born into, and the parents you are born with should not decide where you end up in life.
We are all more than enough, period.