Before there was Miss. Dee the school teacher, or the successful student striving for nothing but the best in life, there was missy; the girl that thought she was invincible. I was always the semi-popular one growing up, to many it may have seemed as though I had it all: both of my parent’s in the same house, I was an honor student, Vice President of the nationally recognized Highsteppers drill team. Not only was I focused; I was happy. “If you listen, you might actually learn something,” was a statement I heard too often from my mom as a seventeen year old teenager.

Read: HOW TO FIND SELF-ESTEEM

Once senior year arrived, I can honestly say that I was truly a different person; someone that I didn’t recognize. I began hanging around with a “new crowd”, skipping school, running away from home, drinking and smoking, something that I’d never tried before; But, while I was trying so hard to fit in, I never realized how many people I would hurt in the process, including myself, and the serious consequences I was going to have to face along the way. Living as a teenage runaway proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.

My life consisted of partying Monday through Friday, and very little sleep. I lost twenty pounds during my downward spiral and, every meal I’d eaten was treated like it would be my last. I missed my normal lifestyle; I missed my family and friends, especially my mom. Throughout all of the stress I’d placed my mom; she was always there for me. Regardless of all the negative feelings my father may have felt towards me, my mom always made sure that I was able to reach out to her; if I wanted to come home she always welcomed me with open arms.

The day that I realized I needed to change and get my life back on track is one that I’ll never forget; I had run away from home to go to a college party with some of my friends in another city, and while there I began to have an uneasy feeling about one of the guys that had driven us out of town, so I decided that I was just going to wait in the car for everyone until the party was over.. Or better yet, call my mom to come get me, because I was done with this life. However that night, I became a victim; I was Raped. Today, I am proud to say that not only am I a successful school teacher and tudent, but I have a great relationship with my family again. It has been three years since that chapter of my life and thankfully, I have done a complete turn around. I hope to someday help young ladies that are in the situation I was once faced with and, give them the encouragement needed to be the best that they can be, instead of trying to be something that they’re not. The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned thus far, is the one that I learned from my mother. She always told me, “Never allow yourself to become a follower;” And from that day on, I’ve been a leader.