I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
-William Ernest Henley
My journey begins in the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where I was born to a young single mother. Unable to financially support her family, she made the sacrifice to put her two youngest children up for adoption in hopes of giving them a better life. Along with my older sister I was adopted into an interracial family, where I grew up in a small town, two hours outside of Toronto. Growing up in an in a homogenous community, I stood out amongst my white family, often garnering stares and second looks when we went out. I was fortunate enough to make a few close friends throughout my elementary years, but I still endured constant bullying which often resulted in me having to defend myself from my tormentors physically. Growing up, I knew my parents didn't see colour when they looked at their youngest daughter, however, the outside world was cruel, unforgiving and made sure I knew that I was the "Other."
Unfortunately, my home life did not provide much relief from the stress that I endured, and between both my parents struggle with mental illness, and I found myself plagued with pervasive loneliness, experienced bouts of depression, and anxiety. Lacking parental support and hoping to find finally find a place where I felt like I belonged, I left home and ended up on the streets of downtown Toronto. Homelessness and alone, I crashed on friends’ couches, stayed in shelters and transitional homes until I was able to afford to rent a room for myself. Dealing with precarious employment and financial exploitation I struggled to pay bills and maintain my academic commitments and had to make the difficult choice to drop out of high school. At the vulnerable age of sixteen, I was lured into working as an exotic dancer by sex traffickers as a way to earn enough many to get back on my feet and return to school. Working as an underage dancer under the influence of sex traffickers, I was exposed to constant threats of physical and sexual violence before narrowly escaping.
Not long after, I became pregnant. My daughter's father abandoned us from the outset. I was left to raise my daughter as a single parent. In these circumstances, I was forced to learn to resourcefully adapt to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. While there were certainly times when I was scared and felt like I was sinking or lost, as my life became ever more perilous, to even my own surprise, I remained steadfast and determined to find my way out of my circumstances and create a better life for myself and my daughter. Over the years, I worked multiple minimum wage jobs, while saving to one day return to school. Ultimately, completing my GED after which, I applied for and was accepted into Community College. I faced many more challenges in the years to come including conquering my first term back school after an absence in studies. Often navigating the sometimes overwhelming impediments I faced as a single mother limited by financial constraints, I was able to apply my knack for hustle and survival to learning the necessary strategies to continue to advance in my studies. Specifically, I employed useful coping strategies to manage my increased stress levels such as visualization, mindfulness, and self-talk. Using these strategies and with plenty of hard work, I graduated with an Associate in Science in Health Administration and went on to earn an Honours Bachelor of Science in Health Administration.
After completing university, I went on to work in multiple large-scale hospitals as a business analyst, successfully supporting hospital-wide information technology implementations while completing a Master of Science in Health Informatics from the University of Victoria. What I gained from my challenging life experiences have not only fueled my passionate commitment to improving my life, but has also ignited my desire to use my story to support the success of youth who are in or emerging from circumstances not much different from my own as a teen and young adult. As such, prior to completing my graduate studies in 2018, I founded the R.I.S.E Initiative. The objective of R.I.S.E. is to inspire, advocate, and empower youth in crisis, and support their successful transition into adulthood. R.I.S.E. focuses on supporting the successful transition of youth who grew up socio-economically marginalized, vulnerable, often exploited and having survived multiple traumatic events in their lives. This work gives me an opportunity to reach out and help other young people with a similar story to my own while raising awareness and helping to reduce the stigma vulnerable populations face.
While I work primarily with youth in crisis, my work transcends all people of all ages and backgrounds. Hardship and challenge affect us all, and that is why I share my journey of not merely survival but thriving in the face of adversity.