It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a month and a half.
I met Mileena on May 6th, 2013. It was then that I learned about her story and launched a call-to-action to the public through SiSy’s Here, on her behalf. Various businesses, organizations and individuals partnered with me to enable her to attend senior prom; support her in graduating on time, despite the odds; and adequately prepare her for the birth of her daughter, Neriah. Her journey has been documented here on the site…
On June 19th, 2013 Mileena joined the last class to ever graduate from Germantown High School. The moment was bittersweet since Germantown High–which has been in existence for 99 years–recently fell victim to the Philadelphia School District’s closing of 23 schools. The event caused me to wonder whether we as a city have risen to the occasion to assure our youth have the very chances of succeeding that myself and others have been working to ensure for Mileena.
As I watched Mileena walk to receive her diploma, I glanced over at her grandmother who was seated at my side. Tears filled her eyes as she looked on at Mileena and took a deep breath, “I got to see her graduate…she did it, she graduated.”
I rubbed her back in an attempt to console her. Before I knew it, my own eyes were tearing up. At the close of the ceremony, I gave Mileena her flowers and told her how proud of her I was. Her grandmother walked over to her and hugged her causing tears to instantly spring from her eyes as her grandmother held her tightly. As I bid my farewells and made the walk back to my car, I finally let my own tears fall.
Now…I slept quite a bit since I was fresh off of a flight from Norfolk BUT I jumped up anytime I heard a major commotion, haha!
At 7:21 a.m., Sunday morning, I held Mileena’s hand as she prepped for her final push to get Neriah out. She had done a phenomenal job throughout the delivery process. At 7:22 a.m. Mileena clenched my hand and gave her last push. Neriah was born healthy and beautiful weighing in at 6 lbs, 9 oz. Yet again, I fought back tears. After getting them both settled, I headed to my car to attempt to get some sleep at home. I didn’t make it much further than the main hallway before the tears started falling…again.
I sat in my car for nearly 30 min. thanking God, sending blessings to the baby and reflecting on this month and half long journey.
When reaching out to the public for help on Mileena’s behalf, I encountered plenty of people who first judged her for being 18 with a second child on the way. Instead of becoming frustrated and moving on to the next person, I explained her story. My reasoning was that even if they didn’t end up helping, maybe learning about another person’s struggle would keep them from judging the next one. After sharing her story, their initial disposition would always change.
I remember having that fear: that I would be judged as a young mother. Mileena once expressed that fear to me as well to which I gave her my thoughts and advice.
Now that she’s completed some of her short-term goals and is working to overcome that fear, I’d like to publicly say this to any other person who fears judgment of their past:
Don’t ever let the world tell you what you’re capable of accomplishing–not your caseworkers, your family, your boss, your teachers, your friends, whomever! They may judge you, they may discourage you…but they don’t have to have the satisfaction of defeating or destroying you. You’re the only one who can ultimately do that. Your past is YOUR story and as long as your alive, you’ve
got a say–and the power–to determine where it goes from here. It won’t be easy, in fact if you’re really striving to do positive things and to turn your life in a different direction, the chances are that it’s going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life. However, you CAN DO IT and an improved quality of life will come thereafter.
And well…don’t you deserve that?
Now We’re Here…I think you do deserve it…under one condition: commit to doing for others, what you would hope [or may have once prayed] for someone to do for you.
Mileena, yes you are a young mother of two. You’ve been through more than some people could even dream of in their nightmares.
BUT you are also a proud high school graduate who has the world at her fingertips–if you’re willing to believe that you didn’t make it through all of that without reason. You now have the chance to be an example of resilience, strength, love and success. Your daughters will learn greatly from your actions so choose wisely; you’re their first reference for how to navigate this world.
You know how dark it can get here but you’re also a light. So shine honey, shine as bright as you possibly can.
…and know that you changed my life.
– Sincerely Syreeta