My name is Auriana. I’m a rising junior at Howard University and in the words of Langston Hughes, “Life for me has been no crystal stair.” Let me tell you about my journey and how I am determined to not allow my environment to determine my outcome.
During my senior year of high school, I made Howard my number one school choice. Unfortunately, others did not share my same enthusiasm. I received so many discouraging comments. I had a guidance counselor tell me that I couldn’t get into Howard. I was even told that I wouldn’t find the money to attend college because of my family circumstances. These discouraging comments put a lot of fear and doubt in my mind, but I was determined to make it to Howard.
Sadly, my doubt didn’t just begin during my senior year in high school. Throughout my upbringing I’ve always seemed to have tumultuous experiences. To painfully illustrate how I was raised, imagine growing up in a household full of hushed tones and poverty. Imagine your father being sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. Imagine your mother being evicted every few months, forcing you to live in cars and motels. Imagine being the eldest of five girls and having to explain to your little sisters that they are worth much more than what they were being exposed to.
If you can imagine this, you can imagine my life from early middle school until now. Since my very first job at McDonald’s, I have helped my mom and siblings financially and emotionally. I’m in college now and I’m still stepping in to be the “mini-mom” to my family.
I must admit, I was a great actor, as nobody was really able to tell the hardships that I was going through. Throughout high school I performed very well academically, stayed involved and worked after school. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and was an ambassador for the school. On the inside, however, I was broken. I battled with depression and inflicting harm on myself. There were times that I felt I wasn’t “good enough” or “could be doing something better.” I wore a mask that hid my struggles and thought nobody ever noticed.
Fortunately, there was one organization that did notice my struggles. During high school I found a support system within Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta. As a high school dropout prevention organization, CIS of Atlanta took me under their wings and proved to be a firm believer in my academic choices. They exposed me to a lot of opportunities. I got a chance to meet Michelle Obama at her Beating the Odds Summit. That experience gave me even more motivation to make it in life.
This organization also stepped in to support me during college. I received financial assistance for my tuition and dorm room necessities. They even helped me get back home during school breaks. I am forever grateful to CIS of Atlanta’s CEO Frank Brown and his amazing team. I could not imagine being this far without their resources and unwavering support. My little sisters are in high school now and CIS of Atlanta has stepped into their lives as well.
Though CIS of Atlanta is still my support system, my financial challenges are not over. Every year I have applied for scholarships and worked with Howard’s financial aid office. Unfortunately, this year I found out that I still need roughly $10,000 for school.
I only have two more years of college left and due to my financial problems, I know many people are still not expecting me to graduate, let alone at Howard University. Although I do not have a place to stay this year or know exactly where the money is going to come from, I am determined to finish what I started. I have maintained a GPA above a 3.0 and successfully completed a summer internship at Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey as a Business Technology Leader, supporting Global Finance and Procurement.
I am not doing this just for me, but to let my sisters know that being a product of our environment is not an option. I want to change my outcome in life and make everyone proud- especially those who have supported me thus far. Thanks to organizations like Communities In Schools of Atlanta, I know that the zip code I grew up in will not determine my outcome!