The Power of Change
“I’m going to finally do stuff so I can finally say ‘I did it!’ and leave my stamp on something.”
21-year-old Anthony shared as he spoke about the moment he realized that he had the power to change the course of his life. “My mother didn’t graduate, and neither did my father, so when I graduated I felt like I broke the cycle.”
Anthony’s story is truly one of inspiration; however, it isn’t one without tragedy and struggles that seemed to have been what his childhood was built upon.
Throughout his childhood he remembers that he and his little brother were often left with family and friends as his mother chose other ventures outside of parenting.
This instability set the stage for both he and his brother to wander into the path of negative influences and eventually into the path of crime. At just 15-years-old Anthony found himself involved with the juvenile justice system, as did his brother, now 17-years-old.
“My mom was only there for us when she was in a relationship.”
Anthony explained of his childhood. “When she was single, she would leave us with people and go off with her friends. She enjoyed her freedom more than she enjoyed us, she is now in jail and my father, although he calls me every week to check on me and see how I am doing, he has 15 kids and can’t afford to take care of my needs because he struggles to care for his own.”
Surviving the Struggle
Anthony’s stint of juvenile crimes eventually opened the door for him to be committed to a level 8 high-risk juvenile facility for nine months and after serving his time in the residential program he was released back into his community and introduced to the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team.
“Getting failing grades was normal for me.”
As he compared with peers, Anthony knew it was time to step up. “I always asked other kids how they got good grades when I would even fail P.E., I made up my mind to beat the odds and not be a statistic. I didn’t want failing grades to be normal for me. I worked with Mr. Jay and he helped me so much. I remember taking my tests and all the way to school I would pray and pray that I would pass and then when I left I would pray and pray and keep checking my email to see if I did pass. When the email came that I passed, I remember walking in the street and shouting. I did it! It was the love and support of Project Bridge that helped me.”
Though becoming a high school graduate of the class of 2019 was the biggest milestone of Anthony’s life, this success brought a broadened perspective and the idea that he could also continue on into college and study to have a career.
He could enroll in culinary school; however, because of the urgency to provide for his four children and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, Anthony had to put school on hold and take on two jobs.
He currently works full time at Roco Taco in Ft. Lauderdale and does side work for a family member when he is able.
Anthony’s desire is to earn enough money to get an apartment for himself and his family and return to school. This time, he would like to become an EMT so that he can use his life to help those during moments they are most in need.
Once Anthony can secure an apartment and enroll in school, he will take part in the Extended Foster Care PESS Program, where he will receive a monthly income to assist with housing and educational needs. This, along with his current employment, will help him meet his family’s most immediate needs.
“I’m trying so hard to get stable. My kids–they are my motivation.”
Anthony is determined to be successful. “I want to be able to have a career so that I can earn enough money to buy them a house and really take care of them. I want my daughters and my son to look at me and for me to be their motivation.”