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No Battle Should Be Fought Alone Scholarship 2017

Jaden Ingram '18 (left) Justin Gaston '18 (right)

Greetings to the No Battle Should Be Fought Alone Family,

Again, I just want to take the time to say “Thank you” for all your support and donations, to this year's scholarship fund. The two students in the picture; Jaden Ingram (left) and Justin Gaston (right), are this year’s recipients of the award.

These two young men were selected by the teachers and guidance counselors at St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx. In order to receive this award, one of the requirements is to acknowledge a life obstacle that could have deterred the individual from their current path and led to a less than successful future. These two young men have made the best out of a badly dealt hand and turned their lives around for the betterment of themselves, their families, and lastly their future.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet our No Battle Should Be Fought Alone Scholars and listen to their stories.

Jaden Ingram '18

Ever since I was young, I always wanted to be someone who could make my parents proud. I wanted to be the child my mother could brag about to her friends. I wanted everyone to take me seriously and treat me as the person I am today. In order to get to this point they were challenges that I had to conquer and barriers I had to break. To get where I am today, to become who I know I should have been was definitely a challenge and I know there is still a long way to go, but throughout this battle there have been people who have guided me along, that I have deep appreciation for. I know they will continue to guide me to become great but now I want to tell you the challenges that I had to overcome.

Growing up I always felt pressure to achieve something great and make my parents even more proud, due to the fact my siblings before me have failed to so many times. Even though most of them have gotten their life in check now, while I was growing, that was not the case. My mother and father were battling case after case to keep my siblings out of jail. They had been running around with the wrong group of friends that often tried to influence me to indulge in the petty crimes they were committing. The problems they were getting into took up all my parents’ time and I felt like I wasn't getting the attention I needed. This led to me taking the wrong path, I started acting out in school so my parents could have their eyes on me. In doing so, I didn't realize I was putting on so much stress on my parents, I didn't realize the struggle they were going through with their own kids.

The legal battles they were facing were always from small crimes until my brother got arrested for murder. Our family was heartbroken. We couldn't believe what had happened. Being in that courtroom hearing my older brother get sentenced for 25 years to life was the worst day of my life. Losing a close family member, to the system, is something that I would not wish on my worst enemy. While all this was happening I continued to act out in school. My parents would always get calls, teachers always had to have meetings with my parents and I continued this all the way to high school.

This behavior would soon change. A few days after the first quarter of my junior year ended, my brother called my mom from jail. She told him how bad I was doing and what he said changed my life. He said, "Jaden, I see all the mistakes you are making. You are going down the same path as me. You are supposed to be better than me, better than I could ever be." After that I knew I had to change, I had to become a new man.

The second quarter, I got help and I got organized to get my school life together. I started becoming more academically in tune, boosted my grades in all my subjects. I started bringing home my report

cards that could actually make my parents proud. My parents trust me more, I'm finally someone that they can have pride in. I'm thankful for my brother and the talk that he gave me. We must always remember God doesn't make mistakes. I am going to make a difference.

Justin Gaston '18

“Everyone has their own burdens.” My mother told me this when I was 9 years old. As a young boy I was always hard of hearing, but that's the one thing that I've remembered. Implemented in my brain it's that saying that gives me extra drive when I need it.

September 29, 2007 a day that I can relive as if my brain were a DVR. It was my mother's birthday “Say bye to mommy, give her a kiss” I recall my dad saying as he pushed me back up the stairs to kiss my Mom goodbye. Ironically, I shouldn't have been the one saying goodbye. “See you later mooch” he calls back to my Mom, as he strapped me into the backseat of his truck. A few minutes later Mom was out the picture and Daddy was driving to drop me off at my grandmother’s house. We drive for about 10 mins then he parks his truck in front of a grocery store. “Hold on papa, I'll be back” the last words I heard from my father.

Something strange went in the air that particular day. Usually distracted by the game system in my father's car I would never even glance out the window, but something told me to look out the window. About a minute passes, I still find myself looking out the window. I remember thinking to myself, what am I looking for but my question was soon replaced with curiosity when I saw a man running from across the street. Full sprint, his baggy clothes falling while one hand controls his waistband and the other holding something in his track jacket. The man stops in front of the grocery store door. I can see my father clearly putting his case of beer on the counter. Confused, I watched this man in front fiddle with his jacket pocket. Out his jacket pocket comes a gun, then BOOM….BOOM….BOOM….BOOM….BOOM! It was my first time hearing a gun. No breaks in between shots, he let that clip go with ease. I hop right out of the car and run into the store, I watch my father drop and in my young mind the thought “he's playing” came to my head. But as I opened those grocery store doors, I knew this was no fantasy. Glass shattered, everything spilt. Only thing that caught my eye was the gallons of blood on the floor. I grabbed my father, too shocked to cry, too shocked to do anything. I just laid on his chest while the commotion continued to rise.

Going back to school was no problem for me. I was in shock. To me, I literally zoned out what occurred. If you asked me at the time, I would say that it never happened, but that shock became dangerous because it became denial. Denial becomes anger because you seek answers. Soon it became fight after fight. To the point where school stopped sending me home, they had a special detention room specifically for me. I was angry. I told myself I could've saved my Dad. I felt like I was to blame for being a bystander. That anger went on for about two years. Bad behavior, bad grades. I was that kid you just wanted to push down the stairs, a plain nuisance to society.

Then one day I saw the big picture. Summer was coming, that was time for baseball, the only thing that pretty much kept me cool. When I played baseball I forgot about everything else. During the summer I usually went away to baseball camp, but this particular year I must've gotten on my mother's last nerve. She couldn't deal with my disobedience any longer. She threatened to send me to boot camp. “Ha ha”, I laughed at her threats, until she told me to get in the car and we were in Rhode Island a few hours later, in a military facility. “Mommy please, mommy don't go”, I could feel the

burning sensation in my eyes. The first time I could feel a tear in 3 years, since the shock of my father's murder, I didn't know how to cry anymore, but I couldn't get left behind. I wanted to go home. She then responded “Oh you not a big man now right?”.... “You want to fight someone here?” I continued to stare at her staying hard as a rock. I wouldn't let myself cry nothing could break me, I remember those ideas going through my head. She grabbed me by my t-shirt collar and hugged me. “This is not you papa, let go!” From there, I felt like I had nothing to worry about. I couldn't help it I started to cry hysterically, I finally felt free. She continued “Everyone has their own burdens. We all have bad going on, it's the good you make out of it.”

I've taken that saying everywhere I go. I stopped excusing myself for my wrongs. In every hard time I've had, I push through with the strength of my trauma. If I got through then, I can get through now and that attitude has made me successful in everything I do. I was forced at a young age to grow up quickly. My experiences have made me who I am today. I understand as a man your story doesn't define you and I plan to never let anything hold me back. Moving on from high school to the next level is just a stepping stone I'm going to overcome. A man does what he has to do to succeed and from a young age I've considered myself a man.

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