As a little girl my mom would tell me “We are going to spend the night under the stars tonight.” We would then get cardboard boxes out of dumpsters and use them as our beds. My mom would use her jacket to cover my two siblings and I, to keep us as warm as possible. It was not until later on that I realized that we were homeless.
For the first 13 years of my life, my family and I were in a state of constant change. Living on the streets and moving from one homeless shelter to another was the norm. Sometimes my mom could do some work around a boarding home which allowed us to stay there for a low cost, but when other visitors arrived with more money than we had, we would be kicked out (even if it was 3am). We would then look for a shelter, but if they ran out of cots before we arrived, we would have to find a “safe” place to stay for the night.
I did not understand how the teacher could expect for me to focus on work when I had to worry about when I was going to eat, if my family was okay, and where I was going to sleep that night.
In the morning, we would get ready for school in a nearby restroom. My older sister and I would go to school, but we did not even have enough for public transportation so we “trolley-hopped.” This is when you sneak on a trolley car and if you see a police officer get on to check for passes, you get off and go to another car. If we could not afford a $2 transit pass, we definitely could not afford a ticket if we got caught. I was just a kid trying to go get the education that everyone said was the key to success; but I had these unusual obstacles to overcome every single day.
When I did get to school, I did not understand how the teacher could expect for me to focus on work when I had to worry about when I was going to eat, if my family was okay, and where I was going to sleep that night. After school, we would panhandle to gather extra change for dinner when my mom was short on money.
When I was 10, my mom decided to move us from San Diego, CA, to Phoenix, AZ, where it was a lot cheaper and we could get help faster.
When I was twelve, I was given a free membership to the Tempe Boys & Girls Club, where I was set up for success. In May 2010, I graduated third in my class at Tempe High School. In 2014, I graduated with a bachelor’s in management, from Arizona State University’ s Barrett Honors College and W.P. Carey School of Business. In 2016, I completed my graduate degree in communication studies with an emphasis in advocacy. I am now working on my doctoral degree in organizational leadership.
Outside of school, I was named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) 64th National Youth of the Year. From there, I met with President Obama in the Oval Office when I was 17. At 18, I was named one of twenty-eight “Most Influential African-American Women in America” by Essence Magazine. I have been a part of events with celebrity alumni of BGCA, including Denzel Washington. I’ve been in 2 national commercials. I’ve been featured in the media, and I have been recognized by LeBron James. Furthermore, on July 14, 2015, I was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of the Directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
I believe in turning my setbacks in life into motivators to succeed and since 2009, I have been using my story to inspire others. I travel and speak all over the country.
Even though I am in a way better place than where I was before, I still have not made it to where I want to be and I still face obstacles. In fact, obstacles will never go away!
Everyone is given a set of cards in life. Some people receive a royal flush and others may not even get a single pair. However, it is up to each individual person to decide how they are going to play the game called “Life.
I continue to go to college because if I ever lost all my material possessions, I would still have my knowledge. Even when I was homeless, my mom made sure I did my homework under the street-lamps. She always told me that if I worked hard in school, I could become whoever, and whatever I wanted to be! It took a very long time for me to see any big results, but I learned to embrace the small victories, such as getting an A+ on my math test. I never got rewarded from my mom like other kids, but I knew everything would eventually pay off. It was my life that I had to work for. If I messed around, got into trouble, or failed classes, then I would be the one to deal with the consequences. At the end of the day, I could only blame myself.
Everyone is given a set of cards in life. Some people receive a royal flush and others may not even get a single pair. However, it is up to each individual person to decide how they are going to play the game called “Life.” Either we work for ourselves, or we work for someone else. Either we work hard so we can make decisions, or we don’t and we get told what to do and when to do it by someone else.
NO MORE EXCUSES
It might sound cliché, but you can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you eliminate excuses. Do not fall into bad stereotypes; and do not let anyone make you feel as though you are smaller than them. When you fall, get back up and try again. Every-single-day, try to become better than who you were the day before! If you can do that, you have accomplished something already. Be kind and giving, because what you put out in the world is what you will receive in return.
Don’t give up! I am rooting for you!
FROM THE BOTTOM
by: Mona Dixon
Dixon graduated third in her class at Tempe High School. In 2014, she graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Management, from Arizona State University’ s Barrett Honors College and W.P. Carey School of Business. She recently completed her graduate degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in advocacy. She is now working on her doctoral degree in organizational leadership.
Outside of school, she was named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) 64th National Youth of the Year, where she represented over 4 million youth all over the world as a teen spokesperson. During her year and beyond she has met with President Obama in the Oval Office, has been a part of events with Denzel Washington, and has been recognized by LeBron James. On July 14, 2015, Mona was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of the Directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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