"I remember a time when my family seemed happy - but I'm not so sure if that was because I was too young to understand or if things were actually better in those early days. I have very fond memories of my brother. I loved him. I loved how close we were and it hurt so bad when he ran away from home because he didn't want to be with my parents any more. Our living conditions were unpredictable and very difficult; sleeping on floors; in motel rooms; on neighbor's floors. We stayed in a motel room on and off for about five years. It was uncomfortably small and only had one bed. I slept on the floor for two years. When I was about nine years old, I came to realize that my parents relationship was very unstable. By eleven, I was witnessing their physical altercations. My brother had run away from home at the time, leaving me alone during the altercations. On numerous occasions, I had to intervene when my father was physically abusing my Mom. For years, I never spoke about the abuse because I felt like I would be betraying my family. I was very unhappy because I was ashamed of the way my family lived and how I didn't have the money to get the necessities I needed. I went to the same high school as my brother but he never spoke to me and no one knew that I was his sister. I had self esteem issues because I didn't have nice clothes and I went to school smelling of cigarettes because my parents smoked. I missed a lot of school when I was younger. I never finished 5th grade and never attended 6th, due to my parents - and I never knew why. In 7th grade, I had to start in a remedial class and work my way up. I remember not sleeping well for about two months because I was so stressed with the amount of school work I had. I developed a lot of insecurities which are still with me today. I dreamed that one day I would have a career that I loved which would also provide me with some stability. In reality, I had no idea what would become of me. People had very low expectations of me which shaped the way I thought about myself. I never imagined that I would ever be able to attend a University. In my junior year at high school, my parents decided that it would be best to move in with another family because my father was unemployed but over the course of a year it became so unbearable that we were asked to leave. I was stressed out because it was my senior year, I planned to attend San Francisco State University in the fall and I had no idea where I was going to be living in the meantime."
After Gaby shared her concerns with a Healthy Start coordinator at high school, Inez Whitlow and Chicks In Crisis were able to step in and provide her with a home and support until Move-in Day at SFSU. Gaby is the first in her family to attend University and the first to leave the Nest.
"It is both exciting and challenging. I am just beginning to learn what it takes to be successful in college"
For anyone who may be facing the same challenges that Gaby faced, she has some advice that she wanted to share:
~ Learn from the mistakes of others around you.
~ Remember, nothing lasts forever.
~ Don't conform to the negativity around you - stay hopeful.
~ Value yourself and know that you are capable of anything.