This year's graduation celebration was incredible! And there was nothing more powerful than 2018 JobPath Graduate Loutasha's speech. She represents many of the hardships our JobPath participants face, and she represents the successes of almost all of our participants: graduation, job attainment, and a path to financial independence!
The following is her speech that brought tears to everyone and lifted people off their feet to celebrate her journey!
"Ya'at'eeh shi ke do shi dine. Shi ei Loutasha yinishye. Be ek iid ba hoodzani de naasha. Shi ma do shi zheii loucinda doo lawrence wolye. Ta'neezsahni nishli, t'o di kozhi da ba shashchiin, tachiini da shi chei, kinya anii da shi nali. Dii ako tao asdzaani nishli.
"Hello family and friends, my name is Loutasha from Pinon, AZ on the Navajo Reservation. My parents are Loucinda and Lawrence. I am tangle people born for salt water clan. My maternal grandparents are red running into the water clan and my paternal grandparents are the towering house clan.
"I grew up on the Navajo reservation surrounded by poverty, addiction and violence. Although I was constantly surrounded by that, I was loved to the brim by my family.
"Both my parents are alcoholics, and I lost my father at the age of 5 to suicide. My mother raised myself and 2 older brothers and 2 younger sisters. A lot of my time growing up was in the safety of my nali or paternal grandmother, Clara. I can hear her encouraging words of making a better life for myself.
"T'aa hwo aji't'eego (It's up to you), she would tell me.
"After graduating high school, I entered college for the first time and was doing well, but I lost my nali Clara in 2008, while in college, and I used her death as an excuse not to deal with life and all the responsibilities that came with it. I went into a downward spiral and found it impossible to get out of. I was digging a grave for myself over the next 6 years.
"But then I had my son 5 years after my nali passed, so I sobered up and made it a goal for myself to do better.
"However, I relapsed once again, and also lost the love of my life, my son's father to a heroin overdose. It took me out for almost a year. I drowned myself in self-pity, sorrow, pain, anger and alcohol. I stayed as numb as possible to anything and everything before ending up in the hospital.
"The doctor came to my bedside with blood results and told me if I were to stay on this path, I would be gone within two months. It struck me that I would be leaving my son with no parents. As I lay in the hospital bed feeling sickly, weak and undeserving of life, I snapped myself, rather the doctor snapped me back into reality. I was being unfair to myself and my son. I remember crying and praying for a way out. Someway somehow Lord, help me. Help me to help myself. It was an ugly battle with myself and suppressed trauma from life, relationships, violence, race, poverty, depression and addiction.
"I was sober on and off for weeks until I was able to get a bed in a long-term facility. I sobered up there and put in emotional work to heal from the inside. I have so much more understanding now of what my nali and elders were teaching me as a child. I put myself through a lot of hardship and struggle because of my stubbornness and selfishness, also because I didn't know better.
"I have learned a lot from my hardships and have grown so much in my sobriety over the past 2 years and 3 months. I've carried shame and guilt but have learned to own my mistakes and admit my wrongs and my truths. I still have so much more growing, healing and self-love to do in my lifetime.
"I decided summer of last year that I would get back to college. I had no idea how I would be able to pay for tuition, books, uniforms, supplies, gas or childcare.
"The choices I made in asking for help is what led me to reaching out to resources like One Stop and JobPath.
"This week I will graduate with a certificate in Dental Assisting and next week I start my new job.
"Many thanks to my support tonight, to JobPath being one of my greatest supports and everyone who made this program possible. I am so thankful to Pat and the JobPath network for all you do.
"Thank you for allowing me to share my story because addiction is very real, it is draining and ugly but it is a fight that is won daily by most in recovery. I am blessed and grateful for my family of choice today and for the healthy choices I am making for myself and my son. I am revitalizing my innate strength with each challenging goal I set, no matter how small it may seem to myself or anyone in my path. I am more than a statistic, I am larger than the pain I carry.
"Thank you for your time, attentiveness and support. Ahe’hee."