“I’m Monica Watts”
My name is Monica Watts and I am a Benedict College alumni. I’M NOW SEEKING SUPPORT AND HELP FOR Graduate School in Columbia, SC at Webster University. I will be pursuing a master in Management and Leadership. I grew up in Washington, DC’s Woodland Terrace, where families face multiple obstacles; having both of my parents on drugs and alcohol which led to my mother being arrested and forced to leave her children. This eventually forced my older brother to take care of his younger siblings. Due to situations in his past, he was in and out of jail until he received a murder charge in 2005. My older brother is now serving his 9th year out of the 11 years that he received. My siblings and I were forced to take care of ourselves at a young age which led to many hurtful and devastating moments. Not knowing where we were going to get our next meals and only knowing the communities we stayed in, we were attached to negativity since we were born.
Another significant moment in my life was losing my younger brother John Watts in 2008, before I started my college journey. It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life. This is a very sensitive subject for me because I know it’s not just me that experienced the pain and sorrow for his loss. Weeks before my brother was murdered by an off duty police officer, I tried to connect him with some community leaders to help him, but it was a little too late. Receiving that call was the worst experience I had in my life. My eyes tear up every time I think of him, we were more like twins, and we did everything together. My younger brother was the only blood family that I had left in DC, so when I lost him I lost half of me. Our life was shortened and taken from us because we had nothing, no one, so we look to the street for guidance that led us in the wrong direction. My mom was incarcerated and no one came looking for her children or either cared enough to find out if she had children. Our systems are not established to deal with children of incarcerated parents. They only focus on the charges a person receives without considering the families or roles that one plays in other lives. A close friend of my mother took me and my brother into her home and raised us as her own. At that time she also had seven kids of her own. I can write a book but you get the point, my childhood was a mess but my future is bright.
I always played the tough role which led me to being angry a lot. I see now those moments stopped my blessing from coming to light. Coming up as a child, we were taught that what goes on in the house stay in the house and in all reality that was a set up from the beginning. We knew not to tell people what was going on in our home because we would have been risking the family being separated. Everyone knows that the love you have for family is unconditional love. I witnessed my older sister’s children getting taken away from her previous to her receiving a 6 years sentence for pulling a weapon a gun on a friend. I haven’t seen or spoken to that sister since I was a child. It hurt to not know if she was safe or if she knew that our brother was dead. So as you can see, the ways you are raised and your family will always have a long term effect on someone. I still don’t blame anyone because life can break the biggest down. I just look for ways that I can get my family together one day and change our family cycle. I’m the first high school and first college graduate in my family, and I’m proud to say that is was hard but worth it.
The neighborhoods we reside in played a role in conditioning our minds to a lifestyle that was not suitable for anyone to even plan for the future. I am a young lady that was so innocent and robbed by communities that are set up for black people to fail. But I’m making it! I plan to come back to my old neighborhoods and provide encouragement to children so they can be everything they want to be by looking beyond their eyes.
I would like to thank everyone that has participated in my current success. I really appreciate the opportunities that help me find my leadership skills and growth to be the best I can be. I feel stronger and wiser; and now I am ready to take the lead. With the help of many, my life blossomed like that of a flower. No one stated that life was going to be easy, but if we search our soul for understanding and plan accordingly, then we can start to control our destiny in life. As a teenager, I didn’t know what the best life could offer, but when I saw the light I was glad to be in it. I appreciate every obstacle and every struggle that I went through to get me here today. “Who and where would I be without those experiences?”
I’m now aware of situations that families and children may face that are not sustainable and were hidden from me for the most part. My story is similar to most stories in the ghetto. And it demonstrates how we are still facing many social and emotional problems in today’s society which we need to focus on, address, and we need to implement new ways to help our young people reach their full potential. We all have to take action. When I say it takes a village to raise a child I mean it!
My journey was unknown, but after being exposed to successful people I knew that I wanted to be successful. Now, I am an even stronger person (mind, body and soul) and I want to help the world. My determination and good heart have also played a part in my growth and led me down a path for success. The wealth of benefits, job opportunities, support, and every spoken word of wisdom became the glue to keeping me sane. Whoa! A journey it was. I thank God for placing people in my life that gave me that extra push I needed throughout my life. Yes, it was not easy coming from a tough community and being in a dysfunctional family and environment, but like everything else; it has its good and bad. Once again, who would I have been without the experiences that I faced? I probably wouldn’t be so eager to want more, I wouldn’t be eager to help, and I wouldn’t be eager to be a strong positive leader. So, I’m thankful for my upbringing. I have learned many lessons and seen things that a lot of people can’t even imagine. As a young adult, I am aware of and exposed to different issues (violence, neglectful childhood, and one’s self-worth) that could hinder a child from growing up with positivity. Now I am capable of looking at challenging situations from different points of view; explaining each point through emotional and holistic perspectives. Although, I was never a bad person; I always knew that I was different. I always strived in everything I did bad or good. Before I understood the ways of the communities’ I was exposed to and forced to follow negative turf rules (ex., fighting, bullying, stealing) based on where I lived. I remember when I went to church every chance that I could. I now realize it was on those days that I struggled the most, as a young child lost and hurt in this cruel world.
To conclude, through it all, I look to the higher power for understanding even though as I continue to grow there appears to be more of struggle ahead (ex., understanding and learning what is normal, functioning household ). I thought I could do it all alone, however God has His own plan especially when I saw how He placed honest and caring people in my life. People that saw beyond the physical me, beyond the eyes, beyond the toughness, that saw a broken bird that wanted to fly. All it took was time to heal and the right people to look after me. My message to all African American children, teens, and young adults; all it takes is effort, determination, motivation, and a dream to beat the odds that are against you. You have to find ways to strengthen your mind and surround yourself with positivity to help guide you down the right path. I am blessed to be here to share my testimony and to let you know that this broken bird is healed and successfully flying in the right direction. Although I’m still growing, I can see clearer now!