Some believe that poverty exists because those who are living in it, or below the poverty level, are doing so because they are lazy. This is could be true for some, but for most it is simply not true. Poverty is a learned mentality that is passed down from generation to generation. It is all they know. I know this because I grew up below the poverty level. My parents got divorced before I became a teenager. One side of the family swears my father sent child support, while our mother swears he never did. I don’t know who to believe. All I know is we didn’t have clothes to wear that were not old or torn, hardly had food to eat, and never had anyone to act like they cared. A few of my uncles bought us food a few times, but that was it. Although it was much appreciated, we still went hungry many nights. I remember one summer all we were fed was Jell-O. I didn’t matter to anyone. I was called “it” for a long time, which only reiterated the fact that I wasn’t worthy of a name. My grades in school suffered greatly, my social life was non-existent. I could go on and on with more awful details, but I won’t, because this is not the story I want others to know me by. I want others to see how I rose above my circumstances. How someone reached out to me because they cared. My aunt cared enough to take me into her home and teach me valuable life lessons. I hated it at the time, because I was not used to discipline or having to obey those in authority. My aunt and uncle made me attend church, gave me a home with a family that cared about me. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I can see it clearly now as I reflect back on those days. I am who I am because someone cared enough about me to tell me I mattered, I was loved, and that I deserved better. I am one of the very few of my siblings who graduated high school. I am also the only one of my family who has earned two doctorate degrees. So, please, don’t look upon those who are in poverty as if they are worthless and will never be anything but that. It takes someone reaching out to tell them there is a better way. They are loved, they matter, and they are valued. Despite their circumstances, they are worthy to be loved. I want to dedicate the rest of my life getting kids to change the trajectory of their lives, and helping the parents overcome the poverty mentality. ~ Trish Strange, Th.D., Ph.D.