Opportunity Center paves way to bright future

With a lot of encouragement from her girlfriend, 21-year-old Deanna slowly walked up to the makeshift stage at Catholic Charities’ Opportunity Center and began to recite her poetry.

“It’s called ‘Anxiety,’ which is ironic because I’m really anxious right now,” she explained before beginning her piece she had memorized for Opportunity Center’s monthly talent show. She ended up taking first prize in the competition, walking away with a Target gift card and a bus pass.

In her young life, Deanna has struggled with anxiety, homelessness, teen pregnancy, mental health, drug-addicted parents and myriad other struggles.

Since she was a child, Deanna used writing as a coping mechanism. “When I was anxious, I couldn’t communicate at all. I was buried in my journals and diaries. It was hard to stop writing and start communicating.”

When there was no one else to turn to, pencil and paper were always there.

“School was my safe haven, but I was bullied at school. When I was 13-years-old I had suicidal thoughts. My mom and dad really had bad drug habits and I was taking care of my mom. Nobody ever helped me, I was just completely alone,” she said.

Bit by bit, Deanna is working to pave a brighter path for her future.

She didn’t come planning to win the talent show, Deanna was at Opportunity Center to see the judge in hopes of clearing her criminal record. She took the blame for a friend and ever since she’s struggled to get jobs and find a place to live on her own.

Things are tough now, but Deanna is doing everything she can to change the course for her son, Michael.

“I wake up at 6:30 every day and take my son to school, then I go to school. I am always tired, but I’m through being desperate.”

She’s working toward earning her high school degree and expects to graduate in January. She’s also training to be a youth advocate through a program offered by Emerge in Minneapolis.

“Anxiety attacks wake me out of my sleep. I struggle. I don’t know how I made it through. Now I want to focus on my career. It’s time,” she said.

Thankful for all of the help she received along the way, including as a young teen staying at Catholic Charities’ St. Joseph’s Home for Children, Deanna is committed to earning a social work degree so she can help other struggling youth.