I’ll Never Give Up: Matti’s Story

By Matti, Class of 2017 Senior

I don’t remember the exact moment my father had a stroke, but I remember the panic coursing through my veins as his friend took him to the hospital. The worries I had about school—and the myriad of negative scenarios I’d expected about my freshman year—suddenly seemed trivial compared to what I felt now. Questions raced through my head at a million miles per second. Would my father be okay? What if he didn’t recover? Would he die? Where would I go if he didn’t come out of the hospital? As I waited to hear from Argaw, his friend, I desperately hoped for good news about my father’s condition. When I learned that my father was expected to make a full recovery, I felt relieved.

I thought my father would regain his strength once he left the hospital. In my eyes, he was an omnipotent figure who was capable of escaping the wicked grasp of the stroke. However, my belief was shattered when my father suffered a relapse in his health. By the start of summer break, he became frail and mentally unstable. A day wouldn’t cease without him making absurd claims about our neighbors or the safety of the outside world. I felt something was wrong, but my judgment was clouded in denial. I waited for my father to make his recovery, convincing myself I just had to be patient. When I realized that his health wasn’t improving, I reached out to my extended family. With the assistance of the police, they were able to remove me from my father’s care.

From that day on, I understood that my life would never be normal. I was now a foster child, and with this came monthly meetings with a social worker, endless court appointments and weekend visits with my father. I felt as though my whole world was rotating at an unquantifiable speed and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I continuously asked myself, “Why did my father have to get sick?” I wanted to give up on my school, my friends, my family and anything else that required my energy. But I soon came to the realization that I could either wallow in my own self-pity or move forward from this situation. I chose the latter.

Choosing to persevere through my difficult times has allowed me to achieve to my fullest potential. I was able to maintain stellar grades, participate in extracurricular activities and build relationships which have enriched my learning experience. As a result, I was admitted to eight universities. I plan to attend USC this fall, and I also will be one of the valedictorians of my graduating class. Over the next four years, I plan to take college courses that will allow me to work in the field of geriatrics. I also plan to build a program geared toward helping foster youth in grades K-12 gain access to the educational opportunities that I have been afforded.

As I think about the course my life has taken, I remember a belief I’ve had since I was a little girl. I thought my 18th birthday would mark the moment when I finally broke free from the shackles of my childhood. But if there’s anything I learned from my experience, it’s that age is a mere number, incapable of determining our level of maturity. Our ability to not be defined by the hardships we’ve encountered, to defy the stigmas and preconceived notions attached to us, is what allows us to shed the skin of our youth.

If I let my situation dictate the course of my life, I would be another statistic in the foster care system, barely passing in school and taking the importance of my education for granted. But the reason for my success, and my ability to see that no hardship is insurmountable, is the sound of my father’s voice saying, “Don’t ever give up on yourself. You have worked too hard to give up now.” I’ve cherished these words since I left him, and will continue to cherish them through times of difficulty.

A note from Matti’s Treehouse Education Specialist, Danielle Downs:

“It has been incredible working with Matti these past few months. She has thrived this year by setting new goals for herself and stepping outside of her comfort zone. Together we’ve been able to help her talk through nervousness around college acceptance letters and assuring her that she’s on the right track. In the past few weeks, Matti has been setting goals to find more scholarships and making sure she meets all her deadlines for USC. Matti encourages and inspires everyone around her and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next!”

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About the Author

Matti is one of the 600+ youth in the Treehouse Graduation Success program preparing to graduate from high school and pursue their dreams.



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