I am Khalilah, a current junior at Claflin University, majoring in Marketing with a Communications Minor. Like some, I grew up in a single parent home, my dad was in and out, but for the most part it was me, my mom and my six siblings. We always moved, we would stay in one spot for a year or so, then we would be in another apartment. Nothing was stable.
As a kid I always wondered why we would move so much, and it was not until I was 14 that I understood. Fourteen was an age to remember, it is where I realized that my mom was maybe overwhelmed and her life was moving faster than she thought it would.
Soon after all of the moving around town my mom realized she was out of options. I was missing days of school. My guidance counselor wanted to know what was going on and I told her. I believe my brother told her as well and from there, she met with my mom. My mother did not want us in the system. She did not want us separated so my guidance counselor found three of my siblings and me a place where we could call home—a place where we can still keep in contact with our mom, a place where we would be safe, a place where things would be stable. That place is called Epworth.
Thanks to Epworth, I was sheltered in a supporting environment where I was able to grow and benefit from the many opportunities awarded to me. As a resident there, I learned things about myself that I did not know.
When I arrived to Epworth I felt a sense of security. Once I settled in, for the first time in my life I felt like I had control of my life. I was always independent even as a child, I had responsibilities as a child and I always made sure everything was alright. When I settled in at Epworth things were different. I did not have to look after my siblings, I did not HAVE to make sure everything was alright. My responsibility was taking care of me.
Epworth enhanced my leadership skills. There were times where I thought I would not make it. For example, graduating high school. I was not too excited as the other girls in my cottage were to graduate high school. I was more worried, more afraid; afraid that I was going to be alone. For the first time in my life I opened up to a stranger about my fears and my worries. This stranger ended up being my confidant, this stranger ended up being an important person in my life and she was my case manager/cottage coordinator at Epworth, Ms. Ieshia Gee.
Ms. Gee has ensured me that life after high school would give me a chance to grow and learn more about myself. She said to walk out on faith and not by sight. Which meant to me it might seem scary but with God I cannot lose. She told me about Epworth’s Higher Education program, which I was fond of and decided to look more into. After graduation I decided to join the Higher Education program where I met Mrs. Laurie Brandes, our Higher Education director. Mrs. Brandes is another person at Epworth who has taught me a lot and helped me see something in myself that I did not see at the time.
After high school I attended Midlands Technical College where I majored in Human Services and then later changed to Business Administration. At that time I was unsure about a lot of things other than my major, and my grades were not great. I had a talk with Mrs. Brandes and it was not a normal chit-chat like we usually have. It was more motivational. I took her words and kept them in mind as I chose to transfer to another school. I needed to grow up, I needed to be at a distance and transferring to a school 45 minutes away made me sure of everything. That is where I learned about resilience. I learned that I had setbacks but no matter how many times I got knocked down, I bounced back ready for more. I locked fear away and threw away the key.
Epworth has put some amazing people in my life, people that do not believe in just doing their job, but doing more than their job. Sometimes I do not think that they know that they are impacting someone’s life on a day to day basis—that they are molding and shaping a person into something totally opposite of what they are used to.
I do not think that THEY knew that they have impacted my life in a major way. I was nervous, scared, and afraid of my future. Epworth has made me realize that I have control over my future and with their moral support I went after my future. I will continue to harvest all lessons and blessings for I’ve been encouraged to become more than where I came from.
Khalilah delivered the above testimony at the annual Friends of Epworth Gala on Friday, February 26, 2016.