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Victoria College helped me break the cycle

By BY STEPHANIE MILAM
May 22, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.

Stephanie Milam

The Victoria Advocate will be publishing student essays from the Victoria College "What's Your Story?" scholarship competition during the next few weeks. Students were asked to write an essay answering the question, "How has Victoria College changed your life?" Winners of the contest, who will receive a $1,000 scholarship funded by the Victoria College Foundation, will have their essays published last. We welcome letters and columns from all students.

How has Victoria College changed my life, you ask? It has changed my life significantly. I'm excited for what my future holds. It has given me dignity and pride. I have a purpose, a drive within myself that I have never had before. I wake up every day with the knowledge that today I'm bettering myself, educating myself and becoming somebody that I'm proud to be. Victoria College has changed my life in a way that no one could ever imagine. It's taking me in a direction where the sky is the limit, and as of now, I'm on cloud nine.

My name is Stephanie. I'm 25 years old. I was born in East Texas. I've moved around from place to place with no real stability as far back as I can remember. I've been surrounded by poverty, violence and abuse my entire life. It seems since the very beginning, the odds were always stacked against me. My mother suffers from bi-polar and is a victim of domestic violence; she was very abusive and beat me on a regular basis. She lived off of welfare, food stamps and any handout that she could get. Often, I remember my mother not being home at night while my sister and I were home alone. We were always hungry. My father, who has had run in after run in with the law, was also a victim of domestic violence. Neither of them graduated from high school.

From a very young age, I felt hopeless. I carried a heavy burden and I was ashamed. I didn't feel like a normal kid. I thought being poor and afraid was just the way life was. At 17, I found out I was going to be a mother. I was terrified and alone, so I moved in with her father. I graduated high school with my daughter there to watch me walk with my class. I began to have hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse, but quickly realized that wouldn't be happening. My daughter's father began to abuse drugs, alcohol, and shortly after, me too. I quickly found myself caught up in the vicious cycle. I was just another statistic on a piece of paper. It was six years before I got the strength and courage to say "NO MORE!" and put an end to the abuse for good.

As of today, I have started a new chapter in my life. I've been living in Victoria away from the violence and substance for two years now. Even though the violence hasn't been around, my life still seemed empty. I felt like I was stuck going nowhere. One day last winter, I was getting my blood drawn when I overheard a phlebotomy student from Victoria College talking about how great the classes were and how excited she was to graduate. I was interested, and since I was in the area, I decided to go check it out. Immediately, when I spoke to an advisor, I was shown such respect and enthusiasm for my decision to start school. I was encouraged to go all the way and not to stop until I have that degree in my hand. I got excited the more I was shown. When the advisor spoke, the thoughts of "I can do this" exploded through my brain. I left feeling more motivated than ever. Right away, I got down to business and did what I needed to do to get enrolled and registered for classes. I even took the phlebotomy class waiting for the spring term to start. I have earned my certificate in phlebotomy, learned more math in eight weeks than I ever have in my life, and I feel valuable. It's only my first semester at Victoria College, but I know I'm headed somewhere and the journey is going to be great. I am ecstatic. I'm someone I never thought I'd be: a college student.

My story is, that I'm ending the cycle of abuse today. Not as a statistic, not with the stigma of a battered child and wife following in my shadow, but as an educated woman breaking that mold, that God awful hold that abuse and poverty had on me. Victoria College changed my life by giving me direction, hope and self-esteem. I now have a future; a better life waiting just over the horizon because Victoria College believed in me.

After recently relocating to Victoria from Wyoming, 26-year-old Stephanie Milam is pursuing a degree in nursing. After she completes her associate degree at Victoria College, she plans to pursue a bachelor's degree and hopes to one day work in an emergency room as a surgical nurse.

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