Last summer, I spent most of my time with The Jesse White Tumbling Team, an entertainment, gymnastics team in Chicago that was founded by Secretary of State, Jesse White. Becoming a member of this team was one of my biggest dreams. There were a number of shows I had during the summer where I traveled to different areas both inside and outside of the city. I had the chance to meet people of different backgrounds and it always warms my heart to see children ask me for autographs. Mr. White’s purpose for creating this team was to make a positive impact on young people in the inner city. He wanted them to get off of the streets and use their talents to inspire others.
Education is a big part of why the team still exists. Mr. White wanted young people to stay in school and become leaders in their community. The tumbling team has a tutoring program that allows kids to spend half of their time training for the team and the other half to learn academics. He inspires me because when we have a tumbling show at a school, he introduces himself and the team, then he has this vision of the students in their future. He would say,” When I look into this crowd, I see doctors, lawyers and teachers.” These group of people are more than a team to me, they are my family.
The tumbling team has a scholars program that recognizes students for their academic achievement by giving them up to 8,000 dollars in scholarship. Every year, I am honored to receive the Jesse White Scholars Scholarship. I also received The Chade Foundation Scholarship during the summer. The Chade Foundation is the first U.S based business to import hair products for African-American women. This scholarship is awarded to incoming, current or college graduate students who have made an impact in their community and are in good academic standing. I sat through the scholarship ceremony with several college students who have big dreams for their future.
Mr. White was a key speaker at the event. There were also other members from the tumbling team who received this scholarship. During the ceremony, a man came to the stage and did an acapella of the song “You Raised Me Up” by Josh Groban. I began to feel an inner peace and happiness within myself. His voice and the lyrics were so beautiful. As he sung, me and Mr. White made eye contact. Right then, I started getting emotional, specifically because I realized that I wouldn’t be at this point in my life without my mom. She made this possible for me. She pushed me to be a good student and person. My mom is the one who raised me up to be more than I thought I could be.
When I look over my life, I realize that I am blessed. I have a family that loves me, I’ve always had a place to live and I’ve always had food and clothes. In fact, I have so many things in my house, my mom is trying to get rid of them. She is truly incredible. There were times when she didn’t have enough money to buy me, my brother, sister and herself food when we would go to eat at a restaurant. She would buy everyone something except herself. I remember asking her, “why didn’t you get anything to eat?” She would respond, “I will be okay, there’s food at the house.” It’s the little things she does like that which makes her such a great mother.
When I was in high school, she gave up almost every weekend to take me, my sister and our friends out. We had a Toyota minivan that could comfortably fit seven people. Most of my close friends lived just a few blocks away from me, so my mom would pick them up and we would all cram in the car. (This was hilarious) A typical weekend would go something like this:
Mom: There’s no more space to fit people in here.
Me: There is…who wants to get in the trunk? It can fit two people.
Mom: Star, we are going to get pulled over by the police.
Me: They can just duck their heads, we won’t be riding for that long.
I remember at one point it was ten of us in my mom’s car, yes I said ten. We didn’t care that we were uncomfortable because we were just happy to be together. Sometimes we would blast the music and eventually get my mom to dance. This part of my life was one of the most happiest times. I had everything I wanted; a loving family, the tumbling team and great friends. I am saying all of this to prove a point. My mom was there for me for as long as I could remember. I am only 21 years old, but I feel like I have lived a full life because when I had dreams and hopes as a kid, my mom turned those into reality. My dreams came true and I will continue to dream as I get older. I’m so happy to know that whatever path I choose in life, my mom will be right there supporting me.