Twilla’s Story

If it weren’t for God putting a handful of people in my life, today I would probably be just another statistic of what I was born into. More than likely, I would be addicted to drugs, living on the streets, in jail, or no longer here. I am the product of poor parents who were both addicted to drugs and alcohol. My biological father left right after I was born, so my mother was left to raise me alone. Her childhood was spent being moved from one foster home to another, until she was 18. This meant that she didn’t have anyone to guide her or raise her, and, in turn, meant that she didn’t have a clue what to do after turning 18. She graduated high school, but never went on to college. She only ever worked odd hourly jobs and struggled to stay sober.

Until I was about 7 years old, my mother and I lived in her car. We would fold down the back seat and we both slept there. Sometimes we parked in an old junk yard, other times she parked behind a gas station or at a park. A few times we stayed the night with people she would “party” with. When I turned 7, someone bought us a small camper trailer. It didn’t have any bedrooms, but there was a small table that could be taken apart and folded down into a bed. We both slept on that table-bed together. The problem with the camper trailer was that we didn’t have a truck to haul it. So, when we had to move from one trailer park to another, for whatever reason, my mom would have to ask someone to haul the trailer for her. We never stayed in one place for too long.

When I was 13, we moved into a small 2-bedroom house. It was pure concrete and didn’t have central heat or air conditioning, but I finally had my own room. When I turned 15 I got my first job. My mom quit working since I was now able to work. This left me to try to pay the rent, utilities, and buy groceries alone, while also going to school. At that time, I had no idea how far behind on bills we were. Eventually, I couldn’t keep up with it all and we lost the house.

In 2004, I turned 18 and graduated high school. My mom left the day after graduation to go live with one of her sisters out of state. This left me to try to figure things out by myself.

From the very first day I was able to work at 15 years old, I have always had bills to pay. During the summers I would work 2 jobs.

After high school graduation, nothing really changed. I just continued to work, and always had 2 jobs. I worked a full-time day job and had various part-time jobs on nights and weekend. I was a waitress for a small mom & pop restaurant, and I worked overnights doing inventory for a group of Blockbuster stores. Due to lack of guidance, I had no idea how to apply for college, and I didn’t know that grants and programs were available to me at the time. The only thing I knew for certain was that I had to work to survive, so that’s what I did.

In 2010, I had my first child. I immediately decided that I wasn’t going to repeat my own childhood. I knew that I wanted to give him opportunities that I never had, I just didn’t know how to do that.

In 2011, I had my daughter and was officially a single parent. Their dad signed his rights over right after she was born, and I was alone to raise 2 kids. I continued to work a full-time day job and paid for my kids to attend daycare, but I couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter to watch them in the evenings.

Living paycheck to paycheck was not working, and I was always stressed and worried. The only way I was getting by was because I qualified for food stamps. But that was all I qualified for. I “made too much” to qualify for anything else. I started to research going to college as a single parent. I found a degree program that worked for me and could be done completely online. I called the school and they walked me through the process of applying for financial aid and enrolling into classes. This allowed me to work during the day and attend live lectures online in the evenings from home so that I could still take care of my kids.

While earning my degree, I was hired into my first Paralegal job in June 2014. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in January 2016 and have been a Paralegal ever since.

Today, I still work 2 jobs, and I will have my master’s degree by July 2022. I will likely always worry about making sure the bills are paid so that my kids are never homeless and never go hungry. I want to provide them with a safe, comforting, and loving home that they can always come back to and bring their future families to.

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