In case my last post was TLDR (too long didn’t read), here’s a stand-alone version of The Letter that Changed my Life.
I am one of the women you talked about during the opening speech. I was a teenage single-mother. A high school drop-out who, at the age of sixteen, gave birth to a baby boy. Despite my circumstances, something inside of me knew I was more than the current situation I was living.
So I went to community classes and got my G.E.D. I even managed to get into the University of Cincinnati as an electronic media major, but because I hadn’t yet matured enough to make the best decisions — I’d spent formative years, the ones when most teens were planning their proms and studying for SAT’s, figuring out how to take care of my son and myself — I wasn’t successful.
I was in an abusive relationship for years, which I ultimately allowed to lead to my dropping out of school for a second time. Thankfully, I finally developed the wherewithal to get out of the relationship before it was too late.
Even though I worked numerous odd jobs, I needed welfare to make ends meet – off and on – for many, many years.
My second pregnancy, 12 years later, was the tipping point for me. I was, again, a single-mother (a daughter this time) and I knew if I didn’t do something to climb out of poverty, I would be in its clutches forever.
For the next eight years, I inched toward economic self-sufficiency. First earning my associate’s degree in humanities and next a certificate in women and gender studies along with a bachelor’s in journalism from UC, all while working at least part time, in combination with receiving some type of government assistance — sometimes food, at other times housing or medical, but always something.
Most people don’t know this about me. It’s not something one goes around announcing.
In fact, a colleague of mine recently shared their candid opinion about people who have been on welfare, not knowing that I had once been one of “those people.”
And I didn’t share that I’d been “one of them.”
There is such a stigma attached to anyone who has needed government assistance — or help of any kind, for that matter. Most people think anyone who has ever been on it is lazy, undeserving, looking for a way to get over or just wants a hand-out.
For me, it was a hand up.
I recently earned my latest degree – a master’s in communication – from the University of Cincinnati.
Twenty years, two children, and thousands of dollars in student loan debt later, I’ve finally broken free from the ties of welfare. I may not yet be rich, but I am self-sufficient.
The work you’re doing is vital — if you can change just one woman’s life, it is all worth it. I image that if I, someone who was and is very resourceful, didn’t know about the important work you’re doing or the resources you provide, there must be other women who don’t know and need to know.
Thank you for the work that you do. Please let me know if there’s any way I can help your cause.