FRANCES VERA 2017 BLESSONS AWARD RECIPIENT

My college education was interrupted for a second time due to early pregnancy. I suffered from physical and emotional abuse early on in my childhood which carried on through adulthood. I was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD, and Stress Induced Eating Disorder. I have attended two city colleges in my life time followed by two trade schools. I hope to graduate with my associates by summer 2018.

I am the first born in the United States of my family (first generation immigrant), I am the sole provider for me and my two girls. I have qualified for and received FAFSA and have also had to take out student loans.

The blessons mission relates to me in many ways due to constant struggles that I still face in every day life as a single mom and minority women, that might way against me in life, triggering anxiety that leads up to sleepless nights sometimes, the only thing that keeps me afloat is counting the blessings I do have. Reality checks throughout the day humble me with constant reminders that, even though it's bad…it could be worse.

I always believed in the saying “finish what you started” but, for a long time, I did not think that would apply to me.  Almost a year and a half after graduating from high school, I found myself dropping out yet again.  During my first attempt, my books were stolen from the back seat of my car, but this time I found myself pregnant.   At twenty-one, this was a step up for me, considering the environment in which I was raised.

I was born to a teenage mother.  She made every mistake in the book while we were “both” growing up.  At age six, I was taken from my grandmother, who had raised me up to that point. Prior to living with my mom, I would have small visits with her and my step-father.  During one of those visits, when I was three or four, my mother had gone to the grocery store.  While she was away, my step dad forced me do inappropriate things in the bedroom. When she came home with groceries and pulled out a long straw sugar candy from the bag, I quickly forgot the incident that took place.  My mom was unaware of what happened and I was too young to communicate or comprehend it myself.  

 After watching my mother suffering from years of physical abuse, my mother, my 2 years old brother, and I moved back to live with my grandmother.  Despite bouncing around, we eventually settled into our own place, ending our stent of homelessness. My step-dad did not take well to us leaving.  About a year and half after our departure, he threatened to take our lives but in the end he took his own.

My mother met another man from whom I endured more sexual abuse. When I was in seventh grade, after plotting my own end to the pain, it finally happened; she left him.  My life could have taken so many negative routes during the time I call, my quiet madness.

While raising two daughters, I picked up a trade in a field I was passionate about:  cosmetology.  I taught myself the skills needed to run my own business. I was able to manage life as a single mother, and stay afloat. Wanting more, I would pass by my old high school, where I knew there were kids growing up under the same circumstances I grew up in.  On a mission for higher learning, something I saw lacking with seasoned professionals in my industry, I went back to trade school to become a certified teacher in my field.  

I wish to encourage high school students to earn an income by becoming skilled in a trade in the beauty industry. An industry that allows them to have a flexible schedule while attending college and can also be used to develop future business endeavors.  I hope to one day introduce my own vocational program to the inner city youth at the neighborhood high schools of Chicago.