Piece by Piece

One of the challenges of memorializing the life of a Saint John’s graduate is how to capture the real story. These women have come from places and pasts so drastically different from our own, and yet, they are more full of hope and happiness than most anyone you have ever met. That’s what makes their stories so powerful.

After graduating from Saint John’s, Shayla moved away to start a new life. She didn’t want to live amongst the reminders of her past here in Sacramento. Her journey is unforgettable, but mostly the success of what Saint John’s did for her, and now the life that she is able to offer her children is truly miraculous.

How does a person do justice to Shayla’s journey? A young woman with three kids that had to fight her crack smoking mom to get her kids back. Shayla had to overcome every obstacle and a learning disability to earn her high school diploma and also became a medical assistant. She credits Saint John’s for the skills to lead her new life as a woman that now earns too much money to be on assistance.

My four pages of notes almost looked like a poem. An idea came to mind.

I hope you like it, but more importantly, I hope it does justice to Shayla and her story.


Piece by piece I’m layering myself,
piece by piece I’m learning to talk.
I used to fight a lot.
Saint John’s taught me to communicate.

Saint John’s—I think about that place everyday.

I pay my rent first—
everything was structured,
there was no excuse to not get yourself together,
5 o’clock roll call I needed to get back.

I was 18 years young—
Skittles was my nickname, ha!
I wore my neon green shirt,
oh my God, Skittles they would all say.

I was an 18-year-old homeless girl with two kids.
I was angry, I thought I was all that—
angry, rebellious, why was everybody else moving on?
No matter what—you are who you are, I had to understand that.
I started talking.

My mom did drugs, she smoked cocaine with me,
it did a lot of damage.
I was special-ed, I had a learning disability,
Saint John’s helped me become a Certified Nursing Assistant.

I’m 30 now—I have my own house and my own life.
I still have my battles,
I have three kids, I learned how to be independent and let welfare go.
It feels great I make too much money.

I’m 30 years old I’ve seen so much.
Saint John’s helped me be who I am.
Early morning get yourself together—I still keep my planner,
I think about that place everyday.

Saint John’s—that’s where I grew.
Saint John’s had an answer to every question.
Saint John’s taught me the skills I use today.

I love them for that.

By Kara Turner
Guest Blogger and Volunteer


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