Thursday, April 14, 2011

Terryl Inspired

I had my first son one week before I graduated college in 1997 and I had very little idea about what direction to go in for my career. I knew what my interests were, but felt like I had to make a decision quickly to take care of my son.  I decided on counseling psychology and a PHD program at The Ohio State University and was not able to complete the program because my son was diagnosed with a disability and began having multiple issues around 12 months old. I left school after completing 2 years and my Master’s coursework to focus on his needs and have never returned. Once making the decision to leave school after completing my Master’s degree, I was faced with a major block in my career progress.  I was told during my last quarter before completing my Master’s that I was 1 credit hour short of what was required in order to fulfill the requirements of my fellowship.  I was told that because of this, I would have to pay for the spring quarter out of my pocket.  There were two problems with this.  I had registered and taken the required amount of credits and there was a mix up because of a change in scheduling that I had made at the beginning of the quarter.  I had dropped a course and added another.  At the time, I had my records that showed that I had the required credits, however, computers at OSU said something different and because their computer said something different, I was being held responsible for thousands of dollars that I could not pay, not being able to work as a condition of my fellowship as well.  Since I could not pay and could not find anyone to help me correct this mistake, a hold was placed on my records which meant that I was not allowed to register that summer to defend my Master’s thesis in order to obtain my Master’s degree.  This also meant that if even if I wanted to transfer to another program, I could not because OSU would not release my records until I paid them money that I did not owe them.  As a result of this, I was not able to benefit from the time and money (through loans) that I had invested to receive something that would help provide for my son and myself.  I walked away with nothing.  Yet, I still had to fight for my son.
 I was unable to get a job for months even though I had a college degree and Master degree level of education.  A job anywhere! I was told that I was over qualified, even when I dumb downed my resume.  As a result, my A-1 credit plummeted.  I couldn’t pay my bills.  I couldn’t pay rent in my town-home, my car note, childcare…nothing.  I was stressed beyond my limit.  My body was erupting in hives from the stress and I had a break down and resolved to kill myself.  My plan was to take my son to his father in New Orleans and then disappear.  I gave everything away.  I used my Sears card which I had never used before to purchase new tires for my car and drove to New Orleans early one morning with my son.  After arriving there, I had serious issues with the lifestyle that my son’s father was living and could not in good conscious leave my son with him.  I had not told him that I intended to leave our son with him and so I pretended to be just visiting and left a few days later.  In the meantime, my family and friends were panicking because no one had heard from me or knew where I was.  I drove back to Columbus and since I no longer had a place to stay, went to my Aunt’s house for a few days while trying to decide what to do.  After much resistance I resolved to move back home to Cleveland with my Mother.  I was depressed and felt lost.  My relationship with my mother had always been strained and so this move was not a positive one in my mind.  I felt like a child all over again and trapped.  My mother was dealing with her own issues in her relationship and she still had two younger daughters at home who were 11 and 5.  One day I left my mother’s house to escape from the stress of dealing with the tension in the house between my mother and her boyfriend and to save my sister’s from dealing with the drama.  We were going to the library.  It had snowed a lot in the days before so there was still snow on the ground.  As I went to make a left turn into the parking lot of the Shaker Library, a car slammed into the passenger side of my car.  By the grace of God neither of my sisters or my son was hurt.  No one was hurt by the accident, which had been my fault.  I totaled my car.  That was the last thing that I had from my life that was mine besides my son.  I sank deeper into depression. A few months later, I came to Columbus for a visit to see my church family and friends and was overwhelmed with love and support.  One of my graduate school friends from OSU surprised me one day by picking me up for a visit and taking me a to a used car lot and buying me a car right on the spot!  She wrote a check for $1500 and gave me my baby, “Faith” a light blue Toyota Camry, and a second chance and some hope.  I never returned to Cleveland to live after that visit, I returned only to get my things and move back to Columbus.  I stayed with friends for a while until I was able to get my own small place for my son and myself about a year later.
 Keeping a job has been difficult over the years because it is difficult to find and keep an adequate provider for my son’s needs.  My son requires different types of therapies that mean trips to doctors weekly. I have also spent several hours a week in his schools fighting to ensure that he was getting the most out of his special education classrooms. While in graduate school I would receive calls daily to pick my son up because of his behavior and this continued even after I left school and was working. I had to get a lawyer through legal aid to make sure that the school actually provided my son the services that he was entitled to by law and which they were fully capable of providing if they put forth the effort. Through educating myself about his disability and finding out first-hand the deficiencies in service to families with those to disabilities, I found a new passion: advocacy. I have always loved to teach so this area of special needs youth/ adults and education fit me like a glove. I have since immersed myself in job positions that are in the MRDD field and/or teaching. Two years ago, I was a House Manager for a company that cared for the needs and rights of adults with disabilities. I enjoyed my job immensely and got satisfaction from it daily.  I was in line for promotions and was doing very well.  I was let go from this job because I had to take a leave of absence to find appropriate care for my son while I worked when he came home after living with his father in Cleveland for 2 years.  I took a 6 week leave and at the end of that time, I informed my supervisor that I had still not been able to arrange what I needed for my son.  It took me 2 more weeks to find an appropriate agency and hour requirements and trained individual to work with him while I was at work.  I informed the company that I would be returning and scheduled my classes to update my certifications and the day before I was schedule to take one of the classes, I got a call from human resources saying that I was being let go.  The reason given was that they hadn’t been able to get in touch with me on my leave to know what was going on and even though I had spoken with my supervisor and scheduled classes through human resources that they were unclear about my intentions to return and that I had not followed proper procedures.  This is also the explanation that allowed unemployment to disallow my claim.  The company that advocated for the care and rights of the disabled fired their manager who had a disabled child and was fighting for the care of that child!  I felt betrayed.
Unfortunately, because I lack the degrees I need, I am only able to make $10-$12/hr in my field despite my experience.  My family struggles to buy food monthly and relies on pantries and the kindness of those who care for us.  I have lost places of shelter more than once, and lived in a homeless shelter briefly with my children due to lack of income to support my bills which only include the basic necessities: shelter, food, utilities, car note, and insurance.  Not to mention the fact that in the quest to provide myself with better access to jobs and a career that would give my family a good quality of life, I have accumulated several thousands of dollars of school loan debt that I am struggling to be able to pay back that I have yet to benefit from in terms of earning potential.  When I was accumulating this school loan debt, I had little idea of what I really wanted to do with my life and therefore lacked the insight on how to use my education to provide more opportunities for me later.  With more than 15 years of life experience that has definitely changed!  My son is largely responsible for this life education that has led me to my gift and passion: serving those underserved who cannot speak up for themselves.   I wish to serve them in a higher capacity to effect change at the administrative level and provide the better quality of life for my children and those that I advocate for others on a daily basis.  I desire to apply what I have learned from life experience to help other children and young adults navigate through the process of career choice and building.  Our children truly need experienced adults to assist with these processes so that they don't have to go through the same challenges that we did and can avoid some of our mistakes.  I know that it is time for some these things in my life to made right and I am looking for a way to make that happen.  I have everything I need to succeed, only need the right opportunity to make it happen.  I deserve it and I have worked hard for myself and others and can wait no longer.  My 2 boys deserve a chance to have balance in their life and not an existence of continual struggle.

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