One of buildOn’s inspirational alumns, Tierra Coleman, is going to be featured on American Graduate Day this Saturday, September 22. Coleman, 21, was our buildOn Dinner speaker in Stamford, Conn. in 2007 — back when buildOn was called Building With Books. Learn a little more about her by reading a copy of her speech from the dinner:
I joined buildOn* to help other people and, mainly, because of personal family issues. When my mother died in 2000, I had a nervous breakdown. I began stealing, fighting, and smoking. My attitude and behavior became worse until the death of my father in 2005. By then, I was fighting more than ever, and had started stealing from my own grandmother. This was an incredibly challenging and difficult time for me. I even became mute for a month because no one at school believed me about my father’s death.
These issues led me to make a dramatic change in my life. I wanted to help others and I needed to deal with the pain of my loss in a more positive way. I needed to find myself. I joined buildOn a week after my father’s passing because I wanted to change and do good in the world.
My younger sister was falling in the wrong direction, just as I was. So, I have striven to be a better person for myself and to influence her. The goal is to make sure she receives an education because the community we live in only pushes us toward violence, early pregnancy and dropping out of school. It’s difficult to be a parent for a younger sibling, especially since I’m still recovering from the loss myself. I take this responsibility very seriously because I know my little sister is counting on me.
Ever since I joined buildOn, I have seen how people in situations like mine need help to help themselves. I enjoy helping people because at the end of the day I know they have a smile on their faces. For example, at a retirement home where I volunteer, I’ve made a relationship with one of the patients named Birdie who has lost both her children. She always asks for me even when I’m not around. Birdie feels more comfortable with me than with the nurses. Through buildOn I have also volunteered at soup kitchens, juvenile halls, parks and at clothing drives.
buildOn helped me overcome my negative ways and helped me find myself. I am now very dedicated and determined to keep people safe and give others hope. Through buildOn, I have been able to give back to others who wouldn’t otherwise feel that there is someone out there who cares about their life. After being a member of buildOn for three years, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and I know my parents are proud, too.
*We changed Building With Books to buildOn.