Every year, our Independent Living Program in SLO County holds an Awards Night to honor our hard working youth--acknowledging their efforts to earn degrees or certifications, secure employment, and reach their life goals. We honor young people like Monica, a former foster youth who recently graduated from the Design School of Cosmetology and obtained her state license. At 20 years old, Monica is now employed at a local salon while raising her healthy, happy son. But her story won’t stop here--Monica plans to continue her education at Cuesta College this fall.
At this year’s ILP Awards Night, held this past May, Monica joined several other youth receiving accolades for their courage and determination to reach their goals in the face of many obstacles. But Monica didn’t just want to be honored that night--she also wanted to share and inspire others in similar circumstances. To do so, Monica gave the following speech to her peers and other esteemed guests, sharing spirited words to inspire and embolden. We hope her words will inspire you too, no matter where you are in your life’s journey.
“Perseverance, hope and personal responsibility are a few key traits to have if you want to be successful in your endeavors. There will be many times in life when things will not go your way and it’s important that you keep pushing forward despite failed attempts. Hope is needed to acknowledge that possibilities are endless and everything will fall into place within time. Personal responsibilities will help you take action in your life and initiate the change you want. Remember, if you are not responsible for your failures, how can you take credit for your success?
My name is Monica, I’m 20 years old, a licensed cosmetologist and a mother of a beautiful baby boy. I became affiliated with ILP at 16 years old. I was working at the time as an assistant manager of a retail business when I realized that I didn't want to be in retail my whole life. That's when I was introduced to FCNI’s services.
All I ever heard growing up was about attending college after high school and what a big deal it was, but nobody ever told me that trade schools were acceptable. I knew my goal was to make women and men feel confident in themselves... but what kind of degree would I get to do that? Well, I went ahead and enrolled in cosmetology; a lifelong passion I've always dreamed of, I was making it into a reality.
I went through a lot of obstacles during my year at school, whether it was doubting myself, becoming depressed on and off, thinking I wasn’t good enough in this career. And then the biggest obstacle yet--getting pregnant five months into a 12-month program. I had to advocate for myself a lot of the time to prove to everyone that I was serious and wanted to work for the things to help me move forward in my career. It made me see a lot of potential in myself and I realized I was my worst enemy. Just like everyone else, I had days when I wanted to give up...a lot of days actually. I wanted to go with friends, stay home and sleep, or work, especially with a new baby coming. I even had to take off four months of school, and thought to myself, is there even a point to going back? Would I be a bad mom if I left my son at four months old to finish school?
I definitely hit a financial struggle at one point but ILP and TAY-FAP really helped me climb out of that hole, not only financially but emotionally. Reading my monthly emails, becoming not afraid to ask for help and having their support really turned things around. I genuinely became proud of myself, something I’ve never felt before. They helped me budget, learn to speak highly of myself and they believed in me.
Strive for progress not perfection [...] My main reason for why I’m here is to let you guys know to never be afraid to ask for help--it doesn't show that you can't do it; it shows that you're actually interested in achieving more.
Know your worth. Like I said, you are your worst enemy. Take control and follow your dreams, don't let anyone affect your decisions to grow as a person and love yourself. We all have hard times and it sucks but with a little initiative you can conquer anything you set your mind to.
Remember, broken crayons still color. I hope tonight something goes home with you and makes you want to try something new or plan future goals. Again, my name is Monica, and I believe that each of you have to ability to make your dreams a reality.”