Tierra’s Story – Overcoming Adversity

“buildOn has taught me that it just takes one person to change another person’s life.”
– Tierra Coleman

With both of her parents gone by the time she turned 14, Tierra Coleman had good reason to be angry. And she was. Her temper would flare at any given moment, often leading to a fight at school or at home. When she met with a psychologist at her high school, the therapist asked her, “Why are you so angry?” She responded that she “didn’t really know.” She just continued to be angry at life because that was all she knew to do. At the age of 15 Tierra was put on probation for beating up an older boy, she had been kicked out of anger-management class and her counselors believed that she was destined for jail, or an asylum.


And then, during Tierra’s high school freshman year, buildOn founder Jim Ziolowski gave a presentation about buildOn. For the first time in a long time, something sparked within her. She felt like she was the only one in the entire audience listening. Or maybe Jim was speaking directly to her. Either way, she knew this was her chance to get away from all of the trouble she kept getting into.

It wasn’t long before Tierra was a standout student in buildOn. While on a buildOn school-building trip in Nicaragua, she realized just how good she had it at home. The experience taught her to be grateful for what she has – even something as simple as toilet paper. Tierra now attends the City College of New York with a major in Sociology and minor in Public Affairs. She continues to serve with buildOn as an intern and hopes to someday work as a buildOn Program Coordinator. The bad temper that used to control her is long gone, along with the self-pity and low expectations for her life. Now, she knows exactly what she wants and is going after it. buildOn has helped Tierra to see that she’s worth believing in.

Breaking The Cycle

With your support we can empower many more students like Tierra, students who are poised to change their lives, and our world.