My Story: Strength from Tension & Integrity

By David

Woodworking is an outlet for me, a way for me to express my feelings through something tangible. Each piece contains all the effort and emotions I put into it while creating it.

close up of wood table with black design

I first learned about woodworking from my grandpa who worked in construction. He taught me everything he knew — how to make picture frames and how to be safe in using tools and not cut part of my finger off, like he had. Watching him work and not give up even after losing a leg taught me important life skills.

I moved in my grandpa when I was seven. Before that, life was rough. My mom used drugs heavily, and there were many days and nights when I wasn’t sure if my younger brother Danny and I would have food to eat or a place to sleep. Eventually, I was separated from my brother and went to live with my grandpa, while Danny stayed with my mom.

When I was 12, Danny and I went to live with Nancy and Kerry. They were foster parents who were there to support us, and we didn’t have to worry about not having food to eat or a house to live in. It became home for us, not just a foster home. They helped Danny and me change from being rowdy kids to young men.

While we were in foster care, the system wanted to have us adopted so we eventually had to move out. A week before my freshman year in high school, they helped us transition into the home of Adam and Tiffany. Tiffany also became my teacher at school — she teaches the Intro to Marketing class to freshman. She and Adam taught us how to be responsible and accountable while having privileges, like a cell phone.

During sophomore year, I got into woodshop class and was able to show my grandpa my projects. I like to make anything I can see a use for, such as Adirondack chairs and a wood-framed mirror. I took woodshop classes throughout high school, and by the time I was a senior, I was also teaching classes.

Here is one of my current projects — this is a table that I have been working on for more than six months. It is called Tensegrity, based on the idea of tensional integrity to create a floating structure. The table doesn’t have any legs but is instead suspended and held together by vertical cables.

photo of wood table being made

For the table top, I created an intricate black design using electricity. I took apart a microwave and wired its transformer to an extension cord, touching the positive and negative ends of the wires to nails in the wood. I then used water and baking soda to direct the electricity that burns it.

photo to wood table with black design

I am proud of this table, and my goal is to enter it into a woodworking competition in Las Vegas this summer. If accepted, my table will be judged by professionals in the industry.

My grandpa passed away about two years ago. Tiffany and Adam have done a lot to help and support me during that time. As an 18-year-old, I see the big picture now of all that has happened in my life. When I was first put in foster care, I thought it sucked because I was taken away from my mom. But my perspective changed six months later when my mom failed her drug test. We had packed up all our stuff, waiting for her to pick us up. That’s when I realized foster care was my best option. If my mom couldn’t even pass a drug test, I knew she couldn’t take care of us.

The way I see it — if I hadn’t been in foster care, I probably would have ended up dealing drugs, under a bridge somewhere and dropped out of high school. I was lucky in that I’ve only had two foster families and was able to be with my brother.

Danny and I are the last ones in our family left alive, so there’s a lot of pressure on us to be successful. I know that pressure is coming from ourselves, but in my mind, if we don’t do something with our lives and give our future kids a second chance, then we’ll have failed all the opportunities that Treehouse and foster care has given us. Treehouse provided me with individual support and the ability to talk to someone once a week in high school who would check on my goals. And they paid for expenses related to my education and activities during these last four years, including fees and trips so I could travel to Seattle and Tennessee for school-related competitions. Treehouse also paid for soccer equipment, summer camp, yearbooks, a laptop, school fees and my graduation cap and gown.

I am excited to graduate from high school and be able to work full-time. What I want people to know is that no matter where you come from or where you start, you can always make your future successful. The worst upbringing can bring out the best future. Even if you’re in a bad spot now, you can still make your future good. And your decisions affect your future, so pay attention to that.

I owe a lot to my grandpa. I try to do better for him. He is my inspiration, and I hope one day, I can be as good as — or maybe even better — of a woodworker than he was.

Learn more about David and what graduating from high school means to him.

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About the Author

David was a participant in Treehouse’s Graduation Success program and graduated in June from Deer Park High School. He recently joined the Launch Success program to continue receiving support from Treehouse as he works toward his post-high school goals. David plans to continue working on his Tensegrity table to enter into a national woodworking competition. His goal is to get a job working at a HVAC company while going to Spokane Community College. He is excited to be moving into his first apartment soon with his brother.

Comments (6)

Kathleen Jean Quinlan

July 1, 2022

What an incredible story! Drugs have ruined the lives of so many people. Thankfully his grandfather taught him an important skill along with the love he gave to him. It is so sad what he and his brother went through, thankfully the foster parents supported them with safety. It is amazing to hear all of the important and practical help that Treehouse provided to them and to many others. Sports, camps, yearbook, cap and gown, things that are taken for granted by most families. It is wonderful to hear that Treehouse provides these things which give the happiness and joy that these young people deserve! Best of luck to you, David!



July 20, 2022

What a talented artist you are! The table is absolutely gorgeous! I have no doubt your future will be bright! You will be an inspiration to many both artistically and for the quality person you have become. You have made your grandpa proud!


Evodio Reyes

July 27, 2022

Its great to hear your perspective concerning your placement in foster care. It sounds as though you wont be burdened with anger and resentment. You have a motivation to stay clear of drugs as well.

As you move forward I wish the best for you. You are extremely talented and I imagine very resilient. That’s great that you have teaching experience already. That will help you in being promoted beyond an entry level employee. Have you considered becoming an HVAC Professor?



August 24, 2022

Thanks for sharing your story David–I and lots of others share many similar experiences good and bad. As a decades older person I would like to encourage you to keep going and never be too shy or too proud to ask for help–it’s a long journey and some of us need to really advocate for ourselves in ways that may come more easily or naturally for others. Trust and count on the people in your life even as they may come and go — no one can Lone Wolf it. It seems like you are finding out much younger than I did that there is a whole world of people to love you, connect with you, and both inspire and be inspired by you. 100% on pairing your college education with an apprenticeship and training in a skilled trade. Good Luck to you!


Mrs. Nikki

December 2, 2022

I was prompted to google search foster care groups after reading a devotional. Your story came up and I am so inspired by your maturity and talent. I was raised in a home full of drug use, but had influence of my grandparents. I learned to cook, sew and hammer a nail. Now being older with grandkids of my own, I am well aware of how much love and support they need and I am devoted to that. You will be an absolutely wonderful influence on others – knowing what you do about perseverance and that family is family no matter how we find each other. Best of luck with your wood working entry, never stop creating!



December 6, 2022

Hi David, I heard your interview on the Dorey Monson show. I’d like to help you acquire the woodworking tool you need to get your business going. You can email me privately.


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