Part One: “This is who you are.”
Rose remembers the day she first learned the definition of the word “resilience.”
She was a student at Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, and her principal, Nancy Mullen, had seen something special in Rose from the very beginning of her freshman year.
Principal Mullen knew a bit about Rose’s family situation. She knew that her mother, a single parent who herself had been in foster care growing up, was serving time in the Adult Correctional Institutions. Rose and her younger brother, Billy, had become wards of the state when Rose was in middle school. Rose was looking out for Billy, working after school to provide them both with things her mother was not able to. She even sent her mother spending money at the ACI.
This would all be too much for many young people. Not for Rose. Instead, she excelled academically, just as she had in elementary and middle school. She played softball and participated in student government while at Mount Pleasant, all the while working nearly 40 hours a week on the weekends and nights. She refused to feel sorry for herself, and she refused to give up.
Principal Mullen marveled, not only at her accomplishments, but at her sunny disposition, her ability to forge friendships and her relentless optimism. Rose vowed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and then, to attend and graduate from college.
“I can’t control the fact that your mother’s in jail,” said Principal Mullen. “But you’re here in my school and you are going to graduate.” One day, she asked Rose to look up the word resilience in a dictionary she always kept on her desk.
“An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change,” Rose read aloud. “The ability to bounce back, stronger than before.”
“That’s you,” Principal Mullen said. “That’s who you are and that’s why you will go far.”
Rose never forgot those words. She also never realized how resilient she would have to be in the years to come.
“I feel like I was always given so much love by everybody, especially by many of my teachers,” says Rose today. “I think that helped me to be so resilient and get back on my own two feet. It saddens me that not every student receives that kind of love and support. The fact is, we all need it.”