Chicago native Ronnie, who is now 18, was taken from his drug addicted mother at the age of five months. Given her condition at the time of his birth, Ronnie states, “It is a miracle I survived with all the stuff she was taking.”
His grandma took him in, but only because the state would give her a check for doing so, a fact which eventually became clear and led to his removal by his 6th birthday. His Auntie and Uncle took him in next, but he suffered abuse there too.
As he grew he just wanted to escape the environment around him, so he turned to the streets. As a kid he hung out with the Chicago street crowd. Drug dealers, prostitutes, and pimps were his regular companions. “Nobody really cared about me my whole life, so I found what I could. I learned from the street crowd and made my first ‘pick’ (stealing) at age eight; robbing, guns, drugs – it was all a regular part of my childhood.” When my grandma died at age 7 I didn’t care. I didn’t cry. It didn’t even matter to me.”
It was around this time that Ronnie came to Michigan, to live with another Auntie and Uncle. He was already heavily into the street life and gravitated to the same scene when he arrived in Detroit.
Ronnie talks openly about the drugs, drinking, gambling, and smoking that were part of his life in elementary school. He attended school but only sporadically, “I am naturally smart so I got A’s and B’s. It didn’t’ mean anything to me though, so I didn’t stay with it.”
“I’ve been shot, stabbed, and called names. My relatives would always put me down and say, ‘you will never amount to anything, look at you, you’ll never become anything.’”
“I came here (CHM) to make myself better, to leave that situation behind. Honestly, I probably would have ended up dead by now. I should be dead, six feet under by now. You’d understand if you knew everything I’ve been through. It really is a miracle that I’m still alive.”
Amazingly, Ronnie is not only a walking miracle, he is also a story of success. This former drug using, drinking, street-loving youth just completed his high school diploma at Covenant House Academy in December. His pride is evident and rightfully so, “I didn’t even know this before, but some relatives told me that I am the first male on my mother’s side to graduate high school.”
Looking forward, Ronnie is exploring his options. “I have an interview with Job Corps soon and one at Ben and Jerry’s. Either way, I know that my long-term goal is to study culinary arts.” In spite of the rough past he leaves behind, he is really grateful to his family for teaching him how to cook. “I can make a mean steak with mac & cheese, string beans and greens. Really I can cook anything, just put it in front of me.”
*Ronnie wanted to be pictured here with one of his favorite staff members, Ms. Gray, who works with the youth in our Caritas Center.