College started rough for Francis. In his first semester, his mom became homeless. After supporting her through brain surgery the year before, the family wanted him to focus on his goal: becoming the first in his family to graduate college.
As a kid, Francis’ family life was good. “It wasn’t easy for my mom,” he remembers. “She’d had me at a young age, and couldn’t go to college. But she always made sure there was food on the table and a roof over our head.” His mother, Sabrina, worked full-time as a security guard, but still found time to volunteer at Francis’ school and make sure he stayed on top of his schoolwork.
But Francis’ senior year of high school, that stability slipped away. Sabrina was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had emergency surgery to remove it. She had to learn to walk again as she recovered. Francis was concerned for his mother’s health, but applied to colleges and enrolled at Delaware State University.
Sabrina continued to struggle. Her recovery from cancer and surgery demanded frequent doctor visits with specialists, physical therapists and psychologists. Unfortunately, her illness eventually cost her her job, and then the ability to pay the rent. Still recovering from the surgery only months before, she moved with Francis’ younger brother into DC General, the city’s emergency shelter for families, where she immediately experienced health problems. “I was so worried about her, but didn’t know how to help her from so far away,” Francis remembers.
Fortunately, he did not have to worry for long. Sabrina connected with Community of Hope’s permanent supportive housing program and moved out of shelter and into a clean, safe apartment. “I’ve been getting my health back,” she says proudly. “My mental health is good. I’m helping out at my younger son’s school and trying to be a good mom. My case manager, Rashanna, makes sure I keep moving forward and don’t go backward.” She has started working part-time as a cashier at Howard University. She recently made employee of the semester!
For Francis, a hard-working student and devoted son, his mom’s stability has meant that he can stay focused on his academics, and his focus has paid off. This May, he graduated from Delaware State University with a degree in criminal justice. He has been working at a local Boys and Girls Club and plans to continue working with at-risk youth. Eventually, he wants to join the Navy or the Air Force.
Francis is proud of his success, and of course so is Sabrina.“I was all smiles when I saw my son in a cap and gown,” she beams. “I can’t believe I saw my son graduating college!”
And Francis insists that he has his mom to thank for his success. “I respect her so much,” he says. “She is the main reason I am where I am today.”
We salute all the parents like Sabrina, everyday heroes who do their best to maintain stability for their families, even in the face of debilitating disease and immense hardship. And congratulations to the young adults like Francis, who do not let adversity get in the way of achieving their goals! You both are heroes to us!