my name is alexandra...

. . . and I have been a part of Chicago Voyagers for a year and a half. I am a senior at Addison Trail.

Growing up when I first started gaining memory, my mom was a single mother unemployed living under section 8; it was four of us in total. I had two older brothers and one older sister, me being the baby of the family. All my life I spent living in bedbug and cockroach infested apartments. My older brothers were my father figures.  Although they weren't the best influences, I looked up to them, especially my oldest brother Miguel. Coming from a gang infested area, he changed his life around when he had his son. Being the baby girl of the family, I had pretty special treatment aside from all the living circumstances, until otherwise.

All the kids from my housing complex came from an apartment with either a heroin and crack addict guardian/parent, neglectful parents who left their kids for days at a strangers’ house in the complex, and/or kids who were victims of sexual, physical and very horribly verbally abused. We all took candy from strangers and took toys and clothes straight out of the dumpster. We all had cicadas as pets.  We all felt comfortable with each other because we knew we all struggled and none of us felt inadequate with each other. So we played and played all day every day. Eventually that changed for me when my dad came back in the picture and I broke my arm playing hide and go seek outside one day. They decided it wasn't in the best interest to let me go outside as much anymore.

When my dad returned, my mother’s abusive side came out of her, towards me now because I was no longer the baby of the family when my new born brother was born. Abuse was my newfound special treatment. I have moved residency countless times, I looked up to my oldest brother Miguel who was going to college now getting his life together, meanwhile my second older brother was still involved with gang activity until an incident occurred: On September 24, 2012 my brother, that I looked up to for changing his life, had been in a dilemma that had him convicted him of first degree murder - all to protect my other brother. It was in that moment that my family went from being whole to all getting separated.  My mom was imprisoned for almost a year.

During that time I went from house to house, separated from all my siblings.  Once my mom came back, some things changed for the better, and some for the worse. Emotionally, I was not doing well. I started self-harming and considered suicide which led me to be hospitalized several times. At home, our section 8 housing was taken away and the nine of us had to live in a one bedroom apartment infested with bedbugs. That being the circumstances, I did not want to be home which led to being out in the streets and becoming more familiar with drugs. I was 13 years old and I felt like I needed to escape my reality by resorting to drugs. Once I decided that I should be doing better something knocked me down. One night I woke up to find myself being sexual assaulted by someone who I trusted and looked up to. Until this day I still struggle with that and with trust.

Fast forward to now, my brother is currently still in prison, my dad who was financially supporting us is currently awaiting deportation trial, and I am currently not living at home. Aside from all the circumstances I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in Chicago Voyagers. Firstly, being in the program reminds me of when I lived in that section 8 complex. Every one of us has our own struggles and trust issues that we do not share with each other. I feel that the field trips help us bond and help us feel that we are adequate. When I am on the field trips, I get the feel and see that there is more to the world than coming from a dysfunctional home. I know that everyone in Chicago Voyagers feels this way.

Voyagers has helped me build trust little by little one step at a time. I feel that there is more to the world and having the ability to see different things such as, Starved Rock has been such a blessing to me. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and has shown me how physically and emotionally strong I really am. One of the overnight trips is one that I will never forget. The trip with Bess (the program manager) and all the activities taught me to I can do this and never give up. It taught me that I have more support than I thought I did. I also love to see that it helps everyone else in the program. Most importantly it has been helping me cope with my past and has helped me heal. It sincerely makes me want to be something in life. Thank you!!!