The following speech was given by Jonesha Fullerton on the day that Second Story announced our new name and look. We’re proud that Jonesha is part of our Second Story family.
“Hello and thanks everyone. Thank you Judith for the introduction.
So, this organization is starting the evening as Alternative House and ending the night as Second Story. I think that “Second Story” is a great name for this organization that helps so many people change their own narrative, and write a new life story. A life story that is different from the one that they were handed. A life story that is all their own, not the one that fate was writing for them.
In October, I spoke at Alternative House’s annual breakfast event. Some of you may have been there. I am Jonesha Necisachi Fullerton, and my middle name means “descended from the sun god.”
My birth mother gave me that name. My father, he didn’t know I existed. Not until I was three, when my mother passed away. He was notified, and got joint custody with my adopted mom. Some of you have heard this story. It was when I was in the third grade that I told a teacher what he was doing behind closed doors. I had to speak up because I didn’t want my half-sister, who had just been born, to endure the same fate. A painful court case ensued. He was deported. … And I was left to pick up whatever pieces I could. I worked through depression and demons to try to understand my experience.
So I jumped into schoolwork. Elementary school, junior high, high school, I always found I was a good student. I guess I sort of became a good kid. I just got good at tackling the course material or whatever challenges were in front of me. Through steady hard work, I found my way to high school graduation and college.
But in college, I lost my footing again. In the new environment, the old depression came back. I started missing classes, and distracting myself with other things. I dropped out. Not too long afterwards, I got into a car accident and my mom kicked me out of the house. The only place to sleep was my car. That was almost two years ago now.
Luckily, I found this organization, then Alternative House, now Second Story, and joined their homeless youth program. They helped me with a safe place to sleep, my own room, just a place to be where I knew that I would be okay. In the beginning, they gave me a lot of food too. Cece and Krystel, two staff members, they were amazing. It was good for me to have someone to check in with and who was keeping track of me. They helped me get counseling and support. I took workshops on financial management, overcoming abuse, social services, and that sort of thing. They supported me while I found not just one job, but two, so I could pay my bills and save money as well. All of a sudden, after all of the logistics and all of the arrangements, there I was holding the pen, and getting ready to write a new story again.
Now, thanks to the help I received from Second Story, I am going back to college. Next semester I start taking classes again at Northern Virginia Community College. Really, I see myself wanting to help other young people going through the same challenges I went through. I am hoping to help tackle the biggest issues in our society, injustice, racism, crime and other issues, one person at a time. I am going to go into psychology, which was the field of academic study that I was the most interested in when I was in college the first time around. I’m meeting with a school counselor and picking out classes, and I start in the summer semester.
I am so excited to be going back to school. I love school. It’s not just a means to an end for me either, although that helps… Actually, I just love the act of learning, the magic of reading and studying new material, and having access to good discussions about new topics. So going back to college feels like the next logical step for me, and one that I am so excited to be taking.
Second Story calls it the “path to empowered adulthood.” I know that everything I’ve done, I’ve done on my own two legs, but I also know that none of us walk these roads alone. This organization has helped me get where I am now. They checked in with me (shout out to my caseworkers, Cece and Krystel) and helped me set goals and keep me working toward meeting my goals. I don’t know where I would be if this organization hadn’t stepped in during a tough time and offered help to get me back on the path again.
I know that I am strong. I know I have the power to overcome the obstacles that will come. I also know that there will be times when I fall and need some help. No one makes it through life without overcoming their own unique challenges. But I also know how to rise again, just like the sun. And I know that there are amazing people, like the great people at Second Story, who are there to help.