Changing Two Lives
A mentor can change a teenager's life with just a few simple words…just ask Christon, a 17-year-old who once thought life wasn't worth living.
At a very young age, Christon began dealing with adult issues. While her mother struggled with addiction and her father was locked away in prison, Christon took care of herself and her younger brother. "My little brother was my world," she says.
Christon's world was shattered when her brother was removed from their home and placed in foster care. "I was devastated by him being taken away," she says. "It was pain that I've never felt before."
In high school, Christon says she lost hope for the future, and her thoughts turned to suicide. On the day that Christon decided to take her own life, she wrote a suicide note in her child development class, which was taught by Brenda Ferguson. After class, Brenda found the note and knew she had to act fast.
Brenda asked Christon to come to her classroom after school and told Christon something that she'd never heard before. "[She said,] 'I care,'" Christon says. "Once she said those two words, it was just like I could feel again."
For the past three years, Brenda has played a vital role in Christon's life. Now, she's more than a mentor and teacher…Christon calls her "godmother."
"She was definitely an angel sent down from God," Christon says. "Because of her, I feel like anything is possible."
Christon says she doesn't think she'd be alive today if it wasn't for her teacher, while Brenda credits Christon with changing her life. "I [didn't] have a daughter until now," Brenda says.
With Brenda by her side, Christon is looking forward to a bright future. "Thanks to her, now I know I'm going to do great things in my life," she says.
Hoop Dreams Come True
Before Swin Cash was a basketball superstar in the WNBA, she says she was just a skinny kid growing up in a housing project in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
Although Swin knew she was a talented athlete, she says she had no idea how to make her hoop dreams come true…until she met Bob Gallagher. Bob ran a youth basketball club and took an immediate interest in Swin. "When I first met Swin, what really stood out was her intensity and focus," Bob says. "You could see her on the court, her desire to excel."
Bob became more than Swin's coach—she says he's the closest thing she's ever had to a grandfather. Swin even calls Bob her "Paps."
"[His] unconditional love for me is the reason why I believe that I've been able to accomplish the things that I'm doing today and become the person that I am," she says.
Bob doesn't think that Swin came into his life by accident. Before Bob met Swin, his niece Kristine committed suicide, and he believes Kristine brought them together. "I think that somehow Kristine would want me to help other girls build their self-esteem," he says.
Thanks in part to Bob's support and guidance, Swin left Pennsylvania after high school to play basketball for the University of Connecticut. In the spring of 2006, she led the Detroit Shock to the WNBA Championship and won!
Swin has had a lot of success on the court, but she says the most important lessons she learned from her mentor have nothing to do with dribbling and passing.
"Everything about Paps, from day one, has always been about inspiring me," she says. "It never was just about basketball—it was about believing in God, having faith, believing that you can achieve things and having integrity."
Read more about Swin and her "Paps" in Denzel Washington's book, A Hand to Guide Me.
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