Melenie Serrano, Researcher at the Youth Action Hub
I’ve always been a joyful person, even when things hit rock bottom. I’ve always tried to see the silver lining of situations no matter what was happening. We were living in these beautiful apartments in New Britain. We were one of the first ones to move in. They were called the “projects” but they didn’t look like any projects; they looked like condos. They were just beautiful. Then in July 2014, my mother lost her job.
Rent and bills were slowly piling up and we couldn’t pay them. We got evicted 6 months later and I basically dropped out of school in 10th grade and moved to New York with my sister. My father got sick while we were in New York, and found out he had dementia. In April 2015, my mom and I moved back to New Britain with my aunt, I got enrolled back into my high school and everything went back to normal, other than the fact that my dad was still in a hospital in New York. After only a month, my aunt told us we couldn’t stay there anymore so we called 2-1-1 and they referred us to the Friendship Service Center on Arch Street in New Britain. It was a shelter for all types of people and they had two beds for me and my mom. Since leaving NY, we had been calling the hospital that my father was in to see if they could transfer him to New Britain so that we were closer to him. We’d never been away from my father for more than a few hours. We were always together so having him so far away had us homesick. My dad was finally transferred to New Britain in June of 2015.
My mother and I spent 9 months in the shelter, and in February 2016 we got an apartment in New Britain, we were lucky because we were enrolled in rapid rehousing so our rent was paid for 6 months but neither of us had a job. So as August came closer and closer, we got more and more nervous because if one of us didn’t find a job by then, we could end up in the shelter again and we didn’t want that. Luckily, I got my first job at Rue 21, at the Westfield mall in Meriden. That saved us entirely, and I felt incredibly lucky.
A little while after that, we found out that my father had liver cancer. In February 2017, we were told he had just weeks to live, and on March 16 at 2:57pm my father passed away. It was hard losing him because he was my best friend; he taught me everything I know and the bond we had was like no other. I love that man more than anything in the world and he knew that. He raised me like I was his princess. He was my favorite person in the entire world and I was his. When I graduated from New Britain High School this past June at 18 years old, I remembered how many times my dad would talk about seeing me graduate. It was his dream. He was always so proud of me every time that I told him about an accomplishment of mine or just something good I did. He was proud of who I was as a person, so that motivated me most. I had every reason to give up: I was homeless, my father passed away, and I was going through some other personal problems and it literally felt like things weren’t ever going to get better. But I pushed myself because I knew I didn’t want to be in this situation anymore. Everything I do now is for me and for my dad.
I just graduated high school and you have no idea how proud of myself I am, because that was so hard. It's not even the homework and assignments but also because I never had time to do it. I always worked after school; I had no time to do homework or projects when I came home because I had to get ready to go to work. I got out at 10pm and since I took the bus everywhere I didn’t get home until 11:30pm and by then I would be so tired I wouldn’t even eat, I’d go straight to bed after midnight to then wake up in the morning by 6am and repeat the same routine. I was so tired of high school but I had to finish. I wanted to graduate. So getting that diploma in my hands was so emotional for me. I am now planning on attending Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT and I plan to pursue a career in social work. I want to become a High School Guidance Counselor. I want to get a job at my high school just because I went through a lot of things in that school so I think working there would be fun and maybe would help out others.
I joined the Youth Action Hub in Jan 2017 because I wanted to tell youth that it's not the end of the world being homeless. People think that since one thing goes wrong that you should just give up. That's not the case at all, pain is temporary, and situations are temporary. Everything in life nowadays is temporary. It’s like, I understand completely, you get tired of trying, you just want to give up completely, and sometimes you may even want to die. I know those feelings. I felt every single type of pain there is, physically, mentally and emotionally. You’re not alone, I honestly feel and felt the same way; I still have things going on that aren’t easy to get over. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s all temporary. I tell myself every day, “Bro, you gotta keep going.” I know what it’s like to be in so much pain emotionally and mentally where you just wait for everyone in the house to leave so you can scream and cry. I do it all the time. It’s okay to cry, it's okay to feel upset, and it’s okay to be mad. I let it out and then watch how much better off I feel after. I’m here at YAH for comfort, I’m here to let youth know that they’re not alone, and that it's not the end of the world.
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