Before I started coming to Alive & Free, I was going through a really tough time. The day of my first Leadership Academy meeting was actually the same day as my father’s memorial service. I decided to come to Alive & Free the same day, right after the service, because I really needed a change. When my father passed away, I was already working on myself to change, but I didn’t have the information I needed to keep everything in order.
Becoming part of Alive & Free let me connect with people going through similar things. I could surround myself with people who are willing to change, and struggling to get it done. It pushed me to do more, to stay focused, and to survive.
Before Alive & Free, I was battling the streets. I have had so many chances to die and to be incarcerated. I live in the Tenderloin, where I’m expected to be a product of my environment. I see homeless people, people hustling drugs, and I know for a fact that that life is not going to get me anywhere. It’s just going get me stuck, and I’m not about being stuck. I’m about stepping into my future.
I’ve learned that in order for me to get out of my environment, I can’t just sit down and do nothing. Dr. Marshall tells me all the time, “You just have to do the work.” It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible. I know I can do it.
When he says “do the work” that means everything: schoolwork, your job, eating right, getting enough sleep, taking care of your health, getting the help you need, everything. Alive & Free gives you the advice and support, but it’s up to you to do it for yourself. Nobody can do the work for you.
They have high expectations for me, and now I have high expectations of myself too. I come every Tuesday to hear the Alive & Free message, and it prepares me for the whole week. It carries me through every moment – just thinking “alive and free.” It moves me. I’m trying to stay alive. I’m trying to stay free. I’m finishing my second year at City College now, and next year I plan on transferring to Morehouse. I’m studying to be a school counselor, so I can open doors for people who have faced challenges like me.
When people ask me about Alive & Free I tell them it’s where you can come and feel safe. It’s a home base where you can come as you are, where you can be you. Alive & Free is where you come to get cured.