When I was 15, my mother cut me with a knife. She's been diagnosed with schizophrenia and it's something I've been dealing with my whole life. Between that and my brother being in and out of jail, I never really had a stable home life. So I kept bags packed and one night I just left. But my mom came after me and tried to hit me with her car. The police saw what happened, and that set into motion a series of events that led to me being put into foster care for two and a half years until I aged out of the system.

I had a lot of rough experiences. I didn't get along with a lot of the staff I encountered. I really felt by myself without any family support. In those two and a half years, I was in and out of foster care facilities/homes 11 times and my mother's house three times. I was sent to rehab. I got arrested. I stayed with friends three times and I had to leave one place I stayed at because I didn't like how my friend physically abused his fiancée. There was one really good part about that time, though - being able to see my father. I didn't really know him growing up, so this was terrific. I'm like a carbon copy of the man. But he stays in a senior home and me being there was against his lease, so I had to leave. Now I'm 18 and I live with my aunt. Things are a lot better with her. But looking back, being in jail was so stressful. It gave me a lot of trauma and built up anger inside of me, and I was only there for a week. Then at the different facilities, there were a lot of days where I wanted to fight the staff because I always felt like they were treating me terribly. But I knew that violence would just make things worse.

I woke up at like 10 something. I was watching cartoons and then two guys in white security uniforms that look like police were like, ‘We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Pack your stuff.’

The way the staff detained us in some places, how they put me on the ground the first day...they broke me down and broke down my spirit. They had me on medicine and I really didn't like how I felt. I was stuck, like I couldn't think outside of the box. I felt like a zombie and I didn't like how it made me sleep on command. I didn't want to take it, but they told me I needed something. When I left that facility, I threw the pills away immediately. Instead, I coped with everything by spending time with the younger kids at the facilities and creating bonds with them. Or I would write poetry, maybe listen to music. My godfather got me into classic films like The Wolf Man and Abbott & Costello - they always made me laugh. But what helps the most is getting close to my father. Knowing about his life and how he and his siblings grew up and how he was the provider for the's inspiring.

Teachers don't really know how to deal with me, either. They are literally frustrated, straight out of college, some of them really close to my age. It's not a win-win situation for anyone and you're not learning valuable information because a lot of things aren't being taught. But I've still managed to do well in school. I'm a senior now and I took the ACT for the first time. I maintained a 3.0 in my classes and I was taking advanced classes and passing them with flying colors. Soon I can graduate and I'll study philosophy, hopefully at Michigan State, Allen University, or Morehouse.

All the teachers can tell you the potential I have and the leadership ability I possess. Once I’m in class and I’m focused, I’m on. I’m the best student in there.

Going through my past experiences, I still have to learn how to control myself at times because I have a bit of a short fuse. It's still rough not having my own place and the assistance that I thought I would have by now. It's rough aging out of foster care and having to provide not only for myself, but also for my father, and helping him out physically. I have a great internship, but it's stressful trying to juggle those hours with school and I want to try to play basketball this season. I wish the adults around me throughout all of this had just been fair, and honest, and showed some professionalism. They should have showed real concern for those of us stuck in challenging situations instead of chastising us like everybody else that makes us feel like we don't have anybody and don't have anywhere to go. I wish I'd had family therapy. I'm open-minded. I wanted to give it a try. Then maybe my family could have shown me how much they appreciate me and vice versa. That could have helped out a lot. Another thing that could have helped me would have been having my godfather in my life. He was very present growing up, but then when I was about 11 or 12 he had a heart attack in his sleep and died. If he would have been there, I wouldn't have gone through any of this.