Let me be frank: My childhood was less than ideal. My mother – a phenomenal teacher and parent – battled depression most of my youth. Sadly, she passed away when I was sixteen, leaving my five younger siblings and I all on our own. Despite my family’s tremendous loss there were many blessings. My mother gifted us with priceless gems, such as an appreciation of the arts and education. Most important, she was surrounded by a village of loving and selfless adults. One of those members, a woman I grew up calling Nanna, took two of my brothers and I into her home, and raised us as her own.

I can still remember the day I learned of my mother’s passing very clearly. I was already living with Nanna at the time and when I came home she informed me of our loss. Ironically, I was coming in with good news. I was merely a week away from going on my first college tour and looking forward to making the last preparations. Unfortunately, my next few days were spent inundated with grief and finalizing my mom’s funeral details. While many adults encouraged me to wallow in sadness Nanna, a 70+ year-old spitfire, was having none of it. She pushed me to participate in the college tour as a way of honoring my mother, and her dream for me. That’s exactly what I did.

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