De'Janae Speech from Back to School Night 2019
I want to first start by giving my utmost appreciation and thanks to everyone who has helped me on my journey. Ms. Joy, for giving me this chance. Ms. Christina, for being not only a mentor to me but a friend, and my Futures community who have been with me the whole way.
I am an adopted student. I come from drug abused families and uneducated generations.
However, I have always considered myself an excellent student.
During my senior year at Gateway High School, my father's cancer had progressed and my mom was also diagnosed. I started working at Home Depot, taking more shifts and attending school less, in order to help provide for me and my family. Eventually, becoming a truant student forced me to find a new path.
At the age of 17 I was referred to Colorado Youth for a Change and Futures Academy, where I met Ms. Christina, my soon-to-be student advisor. Preceding my introduction of the post- secondary opportunities at Futures, I pursued taking full advantage of all this program had to offer.
I previously had concluded that my dreams and ambitions were over before being introduced to Colorado Youth for a Change. However, in the midst of pursuing my GED and with the help of a scholarship provided by Futures, I co-enrolled at Pickens Technical College in Advanced Manufacturing. I absolutely loved it.
But as the only black female in my class and continuous tribulations I struggled with my confidence level. That year my dad passed away and in that same week I had welcomed an amazing baby girl.
After my first year I was beginning to feel behind, and it only got worse when I returned from maternity leave the previous year to a new professor. I was not only trying to be a full time student during the day, but working full time overnight and taking care of my baby girl. As well as tending to my depleting mental stability.
By year two, my grades had dropped from straight A’s to all D grades and I quickly realized that if I wanted to graduate I needed to quit my job. So I am proud when I say that I finished the program in May of 2019 with my certification and of course members of Futures were there to help congratulate me!
But I didn’t want to stop there. I didn’t want to limit myself if I had the chance for more opportunities. My Futures community pushed me to strive for more. Today I am enrolled in the Esthetician program and look forward to obtaining not just a job – but a career. I will take my final GED test once I graduate from this program in the spring.
The Futures community has supported me every step of my journey. Providing mental health counseling and outside resource help. From the moments I was accepted unsure of my future, to moments where they noticed I was discouraged, retracting, and feeling defeated.
Even moments right now when they can witness me be a testament to what Colorado Youth for a Change provides to our community and peers who struggle with alternative schooling.
I am proudly revealing my story today in hopes that people like Ms. Christina know that their work changes lives. And people like you know that this organization matters. They help break generational chains. They help provide a safe encouraging community.
My dream is to be able to see this program still thriving when my daughter becomes a teenager. This is an organization I want my child to be a part of. I thank you for honoring me with this You Count award tonight. Thank you believing that I count.
De’Janae Q., September 2019