No matter how much you may be struggling personally, you have to pull through for your children—it isn’t about you. It is about them. If you don’t succeed, who will they have?
–Brooke, age 26, Family Scholar House resident and participant, University of Louisville, ‘12
“I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone,” she says softly, but with the quiet strength and fierce determination that has gotten her this far evident in how unabashedly she can look you in the face while saying it, smiling so beautifully as she does. Her life has been the stuff movies are made of—not of the romantic comedy type, but of the make-you-think-and-feel-hard type. The kind that would garner the actress playing her an Oscar.
A former competitive gymnast and cheerleader, she was thrown out on her own at fifteen after quitting due to injury, spending the rest of her high school years living wherever she could find space with family or friends—and still graduating on time with honors.
She is a survivor of both physical and emotional abuse. She is the mother of two boys, the eldest of whom has multiple behavioral and learning disorders. Of this child she is the sole custodian as of a recent long and hard-fought court battle. Her youngest child is occasionally visited by his father, her former fiance and a veteran of the Iraq War so destroyed by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that he can barely function, much less maintain his parental duties and rights.
Those are the bare bones of a full-fledged story more difficult to hear than you could possibly imagine. Because it is real. It happened—to her. And most folks would be down for the count after having lived the hell she has.
But she will graduate from the University of Louisville next spring with an impressive GPA and Bachelor’s degree in Special Education, sights already set on her Master’s degree. She is an advocate for children like her oldest son, boys and girls with a whole lot stacked against them simply because no one really understands them. She can speak with more grace than seems possible about what she’s been through, focusing the entire time she talks on the people and places in her life that steered her towards wholeness: an aunt who sticks by her no matter what, a boss who saw her incredible potential, a professor who knew that this student was special…and, Family Scholar House.
“This place,” she says, “is my family. These people here, they are my family.” And suddenly, if you are listening to her, the old adage that one cannot choose family seems horribly bogus—because she has, indeed, chosen who it is she claims as her own, her lifeblood. And the children she’ll work with in the classroom soon? “I think I’ll have something different to offer,” she says.
You bet she will. She will teach out of tremendous resilience, unbeatable strength, and awesome courage—all of it part and parcel of who she is, all of it her legacy to those boys of hers, all of it enough to make one think this world just might turn out okay after all.