We all have vivid memories from our childhood. It might be the smell of cotton candy at the state fair, the rush of sliding into home plate in a little league game, or the splash of a cannonball into a pool on a perfect summer day. For most people, these memories from childhood are of friends, family, and happy times. For Leslie Davis, however, most of the vivid memories from her childhood aren’t happy. Most of her most vivid memories are memories no one wants to have.
Leslie can still describe in detail the day her father went to prison. She was eight years old and was her Daddy’s little princess. She had been calling him all day, but he wasn’t answering. It wasn’t like her father not to answer when his little princess called. She played all day with friends outside her mother’s apartment. Her dad was supposed to come and pick her up, but he never came. As the sun set, his car pulled up. Instead of her father, her father’s wife stepped out of the car, and told Leslie that she needed to talk to Leslie’s mom. Although she wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, she could tell something was wrong by the puzzled look on her mother’s face.
On the way to her father’s house, her stepmother informed her that her father was going to jail for a very long time. Most likely, she would be a grown woman before she ever saw him again. Leslie didn’t fully understand what was going on, but she was knew that it was bad. She started to cry, and couldn’t stop crying until the next morning. She didn’t want her father to leave, and she didn’t want to live with her stepmother. Leslie was afraid of her stepmother, and her fears were about to come true. The next morning, her stepmother woke Leslie up and told her to take her things out of her room. Leslie’s room was given to her stepmother’s children. Leslie was scared, but she did what she was told so she wouldn’t get in trouble. Her stepmother soon began physically abusing Leslie, and would keep Leslie away from her mother. Every day was a living nightmare. She wanted to run away, but she didn’t know where to go. Her stepmother told Leslie that she would kill her and her mother if she told anyone about the abuse. Eventually, Leslie found the confidence to tell her mother about the abuse. Leslie’s mother fought for full custody, and Leslie went to live with her. She and her mother lived in the projects, and money was tight. Even though they didn’t have a lot, living with her mother was much better for Leslie than suffering through the abuse of her stepmother.
Leslie began attending Polytechnic (Poly) High School her sophomore year. Leslie didn’t take school seriously, and preferred to spend time with her boyfriend than study. After struggling through her sophomore and junior years, Leslie began talking to Ms. Cobb, the CIS Project Manager for Poly High. Leslie’s sister had worked with Ms. Cobb, and recommended that Leslie do the same. Ms. Cobb worked with Leslie on her self esteem, communication skills, and attitude. Leslie started keeping a journal about her feelings and issues she was experiencing. With Ms. Cobb’s help, Leslie was accepted into Prairie View A&M University.
The struggles Leslie experienced would have been overwhelming to many adults, much less a teenage girl. While the abuse, mistreatment, and disappointment Leslie experienced were terrible, Leslie feels that they make her the person she is today. She fought to overcome every bad thing that she has experienced in her in her life. Leslie credits CIS with helping her overcome the obstacles and come out on top. “I couldn’t have done this without the help of Ms. Cobb and all the people of CIS.” Leslie’s story is a shining example of what CIS can help a student achieve.