When Shantae introduced me to First Teacher, I wasn’t really sure about it. I wasn’t sure if it was real, and I didn’t understand the purpose. I also didn’t know if I was going to get anything out of it.
The first thing we talked about was lighting up our kids’ brains. I am so interested in that kind of stuff. That right there is what hooked me.
I told myself: I am going to come here and learn to be a better mom.
My mom was born on a farm and she always said my father was from the big city. They met in the South. It was meant to be because my mom didn’t know how to read or write, and my father was the total opposite -- he graduated from Kentucky State. The memories I have of my father are him always having a book. He would take me and snuggle me and read to me.
He passed away when I was 5, and it was up to my mom to raise us. We were a household of 8. My mother made a living working at the Park Plaza hotel as a maid, and when she would get home, I would bring books or spelling to her, and did not know how to read it. I had to learn to read very early because she relied on us to read the important things to her.
Fast forward -- I eventually had my first daughter, Bella. My mom did the best job she could -- she couldn’t read, couldn’t write, but she knew how to work and how to make a meal out of anything. At a young age, I knew that my mother did the best that she could do, and I decided I was going to be the best mom I could. I thought about all the things my mom couldn’t do for us. I was determined, after I had Bella, to do the best I could do for her, which meant I needed to: read to her, listen to her, understand her, and be there for her.
And I knew that meant it was only me and God, and that my father was looking down and helping me. When I became pregnant with my second daughter, Ana, I thought to myself, “Oh my god, I have to do this again. There’s no way in hell on my income that I can raise two children in the city of Boston.”
For years, Ada Mendez, who ran my daughter’s daycare, kept trying to get me to go to church. Eventually, I gave in and started going to Defenders Boston Church. At first, I felt like everyone was staring at me and looking down at me because I was pregnant. The best thing that happened is that I started focusing on the Bible and reading the Bible to Bella.
Every time I went to church, people started slipping me money: twenties, tens, ones. These were people I did not know. At the same time, an old friend from high school ended up moving across the street from me, and she had all these baby clothes and a baby carriage. And I thought, “I can do this.” It was God’s will. Ana came into the world in 2013. (I used to read the Bible to her in my tummy.)
Even with two small children, I got my Bachelor’s degree in 2014 with Shantae's help. All that reading of the Bible had motivated me to go finish my Bachelor’s degree. I asked myself, “How am I going to tell my kids that they have to go to college if I don’t have my degree?” I wanted to tell them: Mommy did it, you can do it.
Here I am today, a single mom of two kids, living in the city of Dorchester. I have a car. I am able to live more comfortably than ever before. When I came to First Teacher, I never stopped learning. I was able to sit down with other parents from many different walks of life, and understand that they’re similar to me. They have the same concerns I do.
When I come to First Teacher, I feel like I can be myself, learn from others, and try to make a difference in my kids’ lives for the future. So I say to the moms (and dads) out there who are feeling lost, alone, or just need someone to lean on, First Teacher is a place where you can come and do just that.