I will survive!
More than 22 years ago, Yesenia Melendez’ mother walked out on her – relinquishing custody of the local Department of Social Services. That’s when Yesenia began a long journey of struggling to survive a series of foster and group home placements. She arrived at Jackson-Feild as a habitual runaway.
Like most of our children, Yesenia didn’t want to be in a group home…but she also didn’t want to be with her mother. She wanted a better life, and – in time – she found it. Yesenia was determined to survive.
While at Jackson-Feild, Yesenia worked with her therapists and counselors to overcome the emotional pain of having been surrendered to the state. At Gwaltney School, she worked hard with her teachers to regain the academic ground she’d lost as a runaway. When she left Jackson-Feild, Yesenia completed her high school education while living in a group home.
When she “aged out” of the foster care system at twenty, Yesenia found herself immediately and completely on her own. She made choices that added to her struggles, but she was still determined to survive.
Before reaching age of twenty-one, Yesenia was a single mother working at a restaurant to support herself and her daughter. She’s been working – and surviving – ever since. She established her own company providing cleaning and home management services but due to a lack of capital, the business failed. Yesenia did not lay down and die.
She started a second business but it, too, ultimately failed. She married and had two more children, but the marriage failed. Yesenia did not crumble.
Remarried and with two more children, Yesenia recently contacted Jackson-Feild. She wanted to bring her children to campus and let them see the place that helped her on her life journey. She wants them to understand the depth of her struggle and appreciate the part that Jackson-Feild played in her survival.
“I don’t want my children to suffer like I did,” says Yesenia. “I don’t mind working hard so that my children will have a good life. I want them to see Jackson-Feild and know just how important it was for me to be there. I am blessed, and it’s thanks to Jackson-Feild and all the people there who helped me.”