Please donate to the 2019 Next Step Annual Fund and help us bring the transformative power of community, music, and mentorship to young adults living with serious illness.
I look “normal” but my life is anything but normal. I have sickle cell disease. Sickle cell is unpredictable. Just imagine the worst pain you have ever had and that it could strike anytime, anywhere, in your body. Growing up, I needed more breaks – at school and during sports – or risk being hospitalized. My sickle cell left me feeling alone and hopeless – life was just too hard.
I started to fall behind in school and desperately needed extra help. That’s when my parents signed me up for STRIVE, Next Step’s after-school academic mentorship program for teens with sickle cell disease. It changed my life.
The mentors at Next Step showed up for me in a way I had never experienced. For the first time in my life I realized that there are people outside of your family who will fight for you. They listened – really listened – and made me feel safe and supported. Working with them, I learned to own my story and become the author of my “whole story”, and not just the story of my chronic illness. My mentors, many of whom also live with chronic illness, helped me understand the importance of managing my health effectively in order to achieve my life goals.
I became more engaged with my schoolwork and learned to develop good study habits. I started to trust myself with my new skills and knowledge, and to feel more confident in my ability to face my personal obstacles. Because of the support of my mentors, Ike the student, the athlete, the football fan, the brother, started to define me more and my sickle cell a little less.
Now a recent college graduate, I have an apprenticeship learning what it takes to be a successful residential contractor. I am also paying it forward as a mentor and as an advocate for those like me living with sickle cell. My future feels brighter because of the life-changing support I received from my Next Step mentors.
Life doesn’t wait when you’re sick. Give more young people like me a chance to catch up through Next Step’s mentorship programs. Please donate to the 2019 Next Step Annual Fund and help us bring the transformative power of community, music, and mentorship to young adults living with serious illness.