I am the son of a teen mom who lost me to the foster care system. I am also a proud African American, an Ithaca College graduate and a father of two inimitable daughters. For the past five years I have been living in poverty while parenting my daughters, working full-time and completing two college degree programs, while overcoming the structures of racism and classism that cloud our educational institutions.
Following the decision of my mother to sign over her parental rights I was raised as a racial outcast in a small rural upstate New York town. At the age of ten the working class family that adopted me moved us downstate for better employment opportunities. I have spent my youth and adult life in Ithaca NY. Upon arrival in the small city of Ithaca I was thrust into an ethnically diverse, yet economically segregated community. I charged through the local education system as the lone African American enrolled in the honors level classes. I was subjected to racial profiling by my teachers and peers, and I often felt alone on my quest to succeed. I pushed on through and in my senior year I met and fell in love with my future wife. We struggled to maintain a relationship in our difficult adolescent years. She soon became pregnant and I was forced into the work force at 19 years old. I labored in small restaurants, recycling plants, paper factories and big box stores. We lived in extreme poverty and often my wife starved during her pregnancy. Our child pushed through and she was born to us on October 25th, 2002. She instantly became a motivation to me.
By the next college semester I had enrolled in an Early Childhood education program at the local community college. I was immediately thrust into the responsibilities of raising a young child, working and completing my course work. We struggled to feed ourselves and pay our electricity bills. However, with the support of my wife and the motivation from my child, I consistently made the Dean’s list, was accepted as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa, and I completed the degree program. I kept with the momentum and applied to, and was accepted into Ithaca College. As I entered my first term at Ithaca College I was challenged with the birth of my second daughter. I continued to work a job while raising two young daughters and completing a rigorous and challenging course load at Ithaca College. In addition to parental responsibilities living in poverty often created a challenge. For instance, during my final semester at Ithaca College, I was taking a course load of 18 credits, I returned home after work to find that the electricity had been cut off in our home. My ex-wife and I loaded the children up and we went to the library where I completed my work for the semester, then we returned home to our dark home. I worked through this, and many more, conundrums to successfully complete a degree program in Social Studies.
Since completing my degrees I have been focused on raising my daughters, securing employment and supporting the local community. I am now a proud and dedicated single father who has much support in the Ithaca area. In addition to raising my daughters I have volunteered and supported many non-profit organizations and initiatives in the Ithaca area. I will take my recent and relevant grassroots organizational skills and utilize them to benefit the people of the Ithaca area. I humbly thank you for your time and engagement in my narrative. I urge us to stand up together this November and begin to "Be the Change" rather than simply hoping for it!