Growing up as the youngest of three, I watched my parents work hard to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We moved around a lot. Nearly every year was a new school for me. Dreading being the “new girl” made those transitions even harder. I had trouble fitting in and making friends. No matter how hard I tried to be a good student, get good grades, make it to class every day, and do my best – I really just hated school.
At thirteen I was hanging with the wrong crowd, ditching school, angry, and ready to drop out and give up. It was at this moment that I met Tawney Willet, my Denver Kids Educational Counselor, and Ana Horvath, my mentor.
Together Tawney and Ana tracked my attendance. They set my bar higher, expected more of me, and refused to let me fail. I didn’t believe in myself, but they did. Tawney in particular taught me how to channel my energy; how to remain positive. She helped me find an after-school job so that I had somewhere safe to go after the final bell rang. By junior year, as many of my friends were already dropping out of school, I was learning how to interview, gaining resume writing skills, and exploring job shadowing opportunities. I got a summer internship and my trajectory started to change.
Today, I’m a college graduate, a homeowner and work for an elected City of Denver official. I am who I am today in part because of these two remarkable women.
When I think of Denver Kids, “hope” is the first word that comes to mind. I joined Denver Kids in 1993 when I was in the 7th grade and remained in the program until I graduated from Denver West High School in 1999. Having champions in my corner for six of my most formative years made an impact on me that I’ll never forget. It’s why I’ve remained close to Denver Kids to this day. I share my story at Denver Kids fundraising and program events, serve on the Young Professionals Council and now Chair the newly launched Alumni Association – which I hope you’ll join! I also still keep in touch with Tawney and Ana to let them know about my current accomplishments.
We must not forget that there are so many other students that need our help, our guidance and our support to give them hope for a better tomorrow.