“My mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. She had her first child when she was 14. And she didn’t know she was pregnant with me while she was on drugs. My auntie adopted my eight siblings and me because she didn’t want us to be in the system. She didn’t want us to be separated. She, too, was a drug addict. But she got her life together. And she has a daughter. So it was really 10 of us who grew up in that house.

I guess the most difficult thing was being the youngest because I was trying to find someone to look up to. I don’t know my father, so that caused me to feel some kind of way towards men. And not having my mother made me feel some kind of way towards women as well. I didn’t really have a role model. There was just a lot of chaos going on. And I didn’t know which route to take. So I was angry all of the time. But my auntie is so sweet, and she spoiled me. She softened me a little bit.

My mom is doing well now. She’s been clean for maybe a year. We actually just started building a relationship. I’ve known her my whole life and she’s always been around, but we didn’t have that mother-daughter relationship. Now we’re working towards it and I’m excited.

But my mom showed me what I didn’t want to be: addicted to drugs and alcohol. I’d always longed for a mother figure. Not just the title but an actual relationship. So she taught me who I didn’t want to be when I have kids. She showed me that when I get older and out into the world, I don’t want to be like that.

So that’s what keeps me going every day. I don’t want to be a product of my circumstances. So I’m just going to make a difference.”

– Alexis, sophomore criminal justice major with a minor in political science from Cleveland, Ohio