From the Bottom to the Top

Jahtoya - Far Rockaway, New York
Entered on November 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Can I still succeed if I live in the “ghetto”? An urban project in Far Rockaway New York is where I use to reside. Gun shots are the symbol of chirping birds. Although the sun is bright, the people aren’t. There are men known as street vendors that sell marijuana, coke, crack, and other drugs. They pass it on to minors to help them. All 40 buildings in this community have graffiti from wall to wall; tagged with Blood or Crip signs. The project is segregated from Beach 51th Street to Beach 55th Street with gangs. Yes the community is far from superior, but the schools are. So if I stay focused and don’t go astray why can’t I be successful?

I remember being a problem child, getting expelled from three different schools. My mother sent me to live with my grandmother New Jersey. I didn’t doubt that my grandmother loved me but she had a bizarre way of showing it. She would say “You don’t have to be so ghetto!” Maybe she thought words didn’t hurt my feelings, but they did. I often thought to myself, “Why your environments determine the outcome of your life? I should be the one to decide my fate, not my housing arrangements.” During this time it was all my mom could afford.

I realized the stereotypes people had of the lower class, especially living in a project, I quickly altered. I started by doing well in school. Although I did not graduate from high school I received my GED. It was a start. I was temporarily slowed down by the birth of my daughter; I didn’t let that stop me. I attend college and I am overwhelmed with myself. I can’t believe I’m actually in school. I felt I had to prove a point, to my grandmother, friends, the economy, and everyone that looked down on the “ghetto.” My husband, I and my daughter moved in our two bedroom apartment, paying my our bills and laughing at everyone who said I wouldn’t make it. I still have a little ghetto in me but I know when to turn it off. I believe if you strive for what you believe in, nothing will get in your way. It’s about how you are raised, not where you were raised. And I was raised with morals, respect, and dignity.