If I have to pick one thing that makes Hanna stand apart, it’s education. I never considered myself a smart kid or even someone interested in school. And now here I am at college and educating myself...I know I would have chosen a very different path if it hadn’t been for Hanna.
I have to give credit where credit is due: I wouldn’t be where I am today without Hanna. There’s no way I would be able to go to a college like Southern Oregon University, that’s for sure.
I just have 26 units left and then I’ll graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Communications. And I’m the first in my family to go to college, too. It really blows me away when I think about it, because I know I would have chosen a very different path if it hadn’t been for Hanna.
It’s part of the reason I want to give back to Hanna now as an alumnus. I want the kids there today to see what they can accomplish. I lived at Hanna for five years—from eighth grade all the way through graduation. I think that’s pretty rare. When I was there I always thought about going to a real high school one day, a school with girls, but now I see that staying at Hanna was the best decision I could have made.
My Hanna family is very special to me because I’m missing part of my own family. I never met my dad. I don’t even know his name. My mom is still around somewhere but I haven’t seen her since I was eight. She’s always been a drug addict and we moved around a lot when I was little. Her drug use while pregnant is the reason why I was born with only one hand. She’s not in very good shape these days, I hear.
When I was young my grandmother took me in and tried to raise me. I was pretty far behind in school by then and always getting into trouble. Then my grandma got sick. So my aunt took me in and I’ve been with her ever since. She’s the reason I ended up at Hanna and, thankfully, she was able to help me straighten out my life.
Another big influence in my life has been Coach Courtney Jackson at Hanna. He taught me about discipline, about practice, about working hard at something. I love basketball and he helped me excel at it, even with just one hand. What was really important was how he could relate to me, how he could talk to me in a way I understood, how he could give me options and then let me make the choice.
I get homesick sometimes and when I do it’s Hanna I miss. Because when you go to school there, live there, eat there, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, people don’t realize how much the staff come to mean to a kid living there. I mean I didn’t see my mom for 10 years, but I saw the lady in the cafeteria four times a day. For me, Hanna will always be my home.
If I have to pick one thing that makes Hanna stand apart, it’s education. I never considered myself a smart kid or even someone interested in school. And now here I am at college and educating myself. When I walked through the doors at Hanna, I couldn’t even imagine that. The reason school turned around for me all started with Hanna’s small class sizes. I got the individualized help I never got at bigger schools. At Hanna there weren’t 40 kids in my class, there were eight. And the kids were at the same place I was, with the same challenges and backgrounds, so I didn’t feel bad asking questions. I think that’s part of the reason why Southern Oregon University has been such a good fit for me—it’s a small university with small class sizes as well. Very Hanna-like!
I’ve often wondered where I’d be without Hanna. Would I have ended up a drug addict like my mom? Would I be whatever my dad is? I don’t know honestly. I do know that I found Hanna for a reason and it changed my life. And because of that I feel compelled to be successful. I can’t let my Hanna family down. I want to make them—and myself—proud. And I will.