Here at the beginning of a brand new year, I have one simple New Year's wish: I want a new chance at life. I want a new beginning. I want to learn to read and write.
Growing up in Chicago, I made it all the way to seventh grade — and I was illiterate. So I dropped out of school to hang with the gangs, doing drugs and alcohol, instead. From then on, able to write little more than my name, the only jobs I could ever get were temporary day-labor jobs. I was stuck and going nowhere. But God wasn't done with me.
I moved to Milwaukee in 1988 and, by the mid-'90s, I escaped drugs, found new faith in Jesus Christ and I cleaned my life up, thanks to a man I met at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. I still didn't know how to read and write, though.
Then my son, Emmanuel, was born in 2004. I'd never raised a child before. When it came time to enroll him in first grade last year, he went to school. But his experience there was terrible. The classrooms were crammed with 40 kids and just one teacher. He just couldn't get the help he needed to learn — and I couldn't help him. His own father could only sit there helpless. It was humiliating. Then I heard about the Milwaukee Rescue Mission's Cross Trainers Academy for kids in pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. I checked it out. The classes had 20 students per room, a teacher and when needed — an aide. And best of all, the school is Christian-based and they pray with the kids! I enrolled him immediately, and he's been progressing so fast, both intellectually and spiritually.
But I still wanted to participate in my son's life, as well. So I asked the school if they could teach ME to read and write, too. They said yes, and for the past two months they've been tutoring me. I'm 55 years old, and I had to start at the ground floor. But they're opening a whole new world for me. It's hard, but I'm learning. I'm starting to help my son with some of his schoolwork. And I'm even starting to dream about one day getting my GED — or even starting my own auto-body business!
My New Year's wish is going to come true. In so many ways, I feel like my life is only beginning — and I'm so grateful.