Moeisha is driving to meet friends. She puts her seatbelt on and turns the ignition key. The motor starts. Driving down the street, she looks in her rearview mirror.
“It takes resilience to keep going forward,” she says. “It’s like looking at your past in a rearview mirror: You can always see it, but the farther away, the smaller and less significant it becomes.”
The 20-year-old Western Carolina University (WCU) junior says she has put as much distance as she can between her and her “heart’s hurt.”
“You feel a longing and want to be home sometimes, and then you have to be smart. It can be emotionally too much,” she confides.
The former Mills Home resident says that is why HOMEBASE is so important.
Moeisha’s mom was a teenager. She lived with her father until she was four, and then her then 69-year-old grandfather and her step-grandmother took custody.
Despite being her father’s “baby” and her grandfather’s “world,” feelings of abandonment kept creeping into her mind.
“I remember thinking, ‘My parents don’t want me’,” she confides. After being sexually abused by a family acquaintance, she recalls, “I felt the fault for how things were – it didn’t fall on anyone else – everything was my fault. I felt I was the problem. . .I still have those feelings today.”
To cope, Moeisha turned her focus to school. It was her escape. In high school, she became involved in sports, played in the band, and participated in academic rallies. Each activity was a way to be away from home and the growing conflict between her and her grandmother.
“My grandparents are a very caring couple. They have always gone above and beyond for me,” she says. “But my grandmother and I butted heads all of the time. Things got worse the older I got. The more I wanted to try new things and venture out, the more we fought. She wanted to be like my mom or a best friend or confidante. But she couldn’t be; she was my grandmother.”
The final blow-up got out of hand. Other people became involved, and she ended up in foster care. She thought everything there was going to be temporary and she would go back home. Instead, she went to live at Mills Home in Thomasville.
When she first came to Mills Home in February 2014, Moeisha was upset. She says she didn’t speak to anyone for a month. “I felt abandoned again. I felt my family’s life would go on without me, and I could be replaced.”
Her school work suffered. She did not involve herself in her new school. After making some big mistakes and growing tired of fighting, she says, “It felt like I was drowning, and I was going under the last time.”
She felt hopeless until she turned to the adults around her – her cottage parents and case manager – and they helped her.
Her senior year in high school became a different story. “I helped out in my cottage. I joined marching band and made the soccer team. I was busy again. It made me happy.”
But this time, instead of escaping, she was thriving.
Knowing she wanted to become a neonatal nurse, she mapped out a plan to reach her goal and committed to attend Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.
Today, Moeisha stays in contact with former cottage parents and is always welcome at Mills Home and Broyhill Home in Clyde, but there are things that come up during middle-of-the night “student hours” when she won’t pick up the phone and call – “These are things and times in my life that fit well with HOMEBASE.”
HOMEBASE offers compassionate support to college students who are former residential care and foster youth, orphans, emancipated youth, or homeless. The outreach is a collaboration between BCH and WCU and operates on the university’s campus.
“At HOMEBASE, the students are like me,” Moeisha says. “We have similar past experiences. It gives us students a sense of home with no judgments.”
She says despite the heartache students like her have known, it’s important to find ways to move forward, to keep going. “People who come to HOMEBASE are looking ahead. We can’t allow our pasts to hold us back.”
Learn more about HOMEBASE at https://www.bchfamily.org/help/homebase