“I will never stop trying to get my family out of our marginalized community.” These were the words spoken by Yasmin, the mother of our 7th grade Dreamer Elijah. Her story is one of incredible perseverance, resilience, and taking each day one at a time.
Her efforts to succeed amidst a series of traumatic losses and extreme hardships have taught her the true value of education. Yasmin now strives to instill this attitude in her three young children every day. She lives her life by a simple, yet powerful mantra, “Life is not about the end, life is about the journey.” Through determination, hard work, a series of educational achievements, and a few “miracles,” she is now working to create a better life for her and her children.
Yasmin is a survivor. After her family’s offer to help fell through, she went from being homeless, to living in a domestic violence shelter with her three young children. However, she never gave up, and instead resolved to improve her and her family’s lives through acceptance and enrollment at Louisiana State University – Alexandria (LSU-A). During her time at LSU-A, she was able to transition her family into dorm housing, attend full-time classes, and work three jobs. She has struggled, but she has also continuously persisted. The hard work paid off as Yasmin has just recently received her Master of Science Degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from USC. But she didn’t stop there. Yasmin will also be completing her Master of Social Work from USC in 2017. “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles will be there to cheer her on!
Yasmin says, “Nothing gets in the way of being a parent, nothing gets in the way of hard work.” Her efforts truly exemplify the power of perseverance.
“I Have a Dream Foundation” – Los Angeles Helping Families to Break the Cycle of Poverty
Yasmin’s relationship with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles (IHADLA) began in 2012 when her oldest child, Elijah, was completing the second grade. At that time, she learned that IHADLA was sponsoring the entire third grade level at 99th Street Elementary School. The foundation would provide free tutoring, field trips, and mentoring year round, in school and after school. Elijah was invited to be a participant beginning in the fall. While she was hesitant to enroll Elijah in the IHADLA program, not knowing what to expect, she spoke with members of staff and decided to have him join the “Dreamers.” At this time, Yasmin and her three children were living in their car, as there was no longer space for them in her grandmother’s home. When school began she was able to get all four of them into an emergency shelter, and then the agency paid for the family to temporarily reside at a hotel.
Determined to be self-sufficient, Yasmin had told no one about her housing situation, not even her family. Once Elijah began participating in the IHADLA program, however, Yasmin realized it would be best to inform the program coordinators about Elijah’s circumstances since he would be spending so much time in the IHADLA program and they continued to offer support daily.
Yasmin is very thankful for all the support that IHADLA has provided to her family. The Foundation paid for the school supplies of all of her children from the time that Elijah entered the program. IHADLA also assisted with money to purchase food and hotel stays while the family was homeless. Thanks to IHADLA, Elijah was able to attend Omega Fraternity seminars at LMU on issues facing young black men in Los Angeles, regular weekend outings, after-school programs that allowed Yasmin to attend college classes, and an all-expenses paid summer camp for children who had experienced loss. Yasmin summed up her experience by saying, “We could not have made it this far without IHADLA’s support in all matters of our life.”
At this stage, Yasmin realized that she had to “keep moving forward, one day at a time” if she wanted to “rise above her family circumstances”. She completed her bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University and then decided to apply for her Masters at USC and was accepted!
The start of her Master’s education was fraught with trauma and obstacles. Three weeks after beginning her USC journey, her brother (her closest family member and dear friend), was murdered. This was, understandably, a huge shock. Unfortunately, Yasmin would go on to experience the loss of her grandmother, and then her grandfather, shortly after the traumatic loss of her brother.
During this difficult period, her advisor at USC was able to share a job opportunity on campus working for the Center for Black Cultural Student Affairs, which she successfully landed. It was while she was at this job that Yasmin first learned that USC had an option for a dual Business/Social Work degree. Excited at the prospect, she applied and was accepted into the Marshall School of Business. In the spring of 2016, Yasmin graduated with her Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation degree from USC. She is expected to receive her Master of Social Work degree from USC in May of 2017.
Yasmin knows that her three young children are watching her every step, and she works every day to pass her drive and determination on to her children. Her daughter (age 5) is doing better in school because she wants her mom to focus on moving them out of their current apartment – the way to do that, she believes, is to do well in school so her mom can focus on her own academic success. Her daughter then says that when she herself grows up, she will go to college and be able to move her mom and family into an even better home. Yasmin has seen how education has changed her life, and she strives to expose her family to “something else” – different way of life then she has ever known, one that is surrounded by opportunity, stability, and growth for generations to come.