Today, Alecia Rodriguez is a picture of success – the founder and owner of two nonprofits,

a college graduate and a student pursuing both a master’s degree in clinical mental health with a license in marriage and family therapy and a doctorate in philosophy.

THE JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL But Alecia’s road to success wasn’t a smooth one.

Alecia was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with her mother and grandmother when she was 5 years old.

At age 7, she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, causing her mother to experience a mental breakdown and eventually turn to drugs.

Alecia and her younger brother went into the custody of their grandmother.

When her mother gave birth to another girl, Alecia begged her grandmother to take custody of the new baby as well.

From that point on, Alecia raised both her brother and sister while her grandmother suffered from alcoholism.

“And because of the alcohol abuse, my grandmother began to physically abuse me,”

THE JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL Alecia explains. “Fortunately, my brother and sister never got physically abused; it was always on me.”

When Alecia was a preteen, she and her siblings were removed from their grandmother’s custody and placed in the foster care system.

Alecia spent the rest of her childhood in various foster homes until she “aged out” of the system, which is when a person turns 18 and becomes a legal adult.

“Fortunately, all of my foster parents were amazing to me,” she recalls. “I never had a negative experience in the foster care system.”

In fact, Alecia is still in constant contact with the couple who cared for her in her last placement before she turned 18.

“I call them mom and dad,” she says. “They always treated me like their own child.

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Author: ปราณี