Why do some children survive the very worst life can throw at them and some don’t? Quite often, it’s one person who gives a damn.
Take Mya Jones, a 17-year-old senior at St. Charles High School in southeastern Minnesota whose story was featured Sunday in the Winona Daily News.
She was born to a heroin-addicted mother, and raised by grandparents until her grandmother died when she was 2.
“I remember looking out the window seeing the cops,” she told reporter Tobias Mann. “I knew that there wasn’t anyone who could take care of me and my brother.”
Back to her mother.
“My mom was never home. If she was, she was sleeping,” Mya said, recalling once finding her mother unconscious on the bathroom floor.
“I was shaking her trying to wake her up,” Mya said. “She’d overdosed on heroin.”
Mom let men molest her in exchange for heroin.
She ran away. She was 3. Then she was adopted by an uncle and aunt. When her uncle died, her aunt began a pattern of physical and emotional abuse, she told the Daily News.
“It was really bad,” Mya said recalling the bruises left by belts, wooden spoons and flashlights at her aunt’s hand.
To this day, fast movements still bother the teen.
“I don’t like when people make fast movements because I think they are going to hit me,” she said.
Mya ended up in a group home. Her siblings ended up in foster care.
Then she met a cop. Allison Jones was in charge of driving her to and from her group home.
“Mya latched on to me hard,” Jones told Mann. She got involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters so she could help more. “It tugged at my heartstrings reading about the physical and emotional abuse they went through.”
Still, Mya bounced around from group home to family and friends.
Until Allison got custody.
Mya recalled packing all her belongings into two big black garbage bags and calling Allison to pick her up.
“It was probably one of the saddest things I’d ever seen,” Allison said. “That was all she had.”
Two years later, the teen is still adjusting to her new life.
“It was hard,” Mya said. “I would shut down if I was in trouble. I would shut down if something happened. … I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.”
In other ways, things got a lot easier for Mya, who was used to long-hours cleaning her aunt’s house and caring for her siblings. In her new home, she didn’t have to worry about doing the dishes or cleaning the house.
Last October, Jones adopted Mya.
In the fall, she’ll start at Rochester Community and Technical College. She wants to be a nurse.
She won an Above and Beyond Scholarship, a program that honors high school seniors who have overcome significant adversity.
Mann has several stories just like Mya’s, the cure for whatever ails you today.