A TOUGH START
We first met Alexis in 2003, when she was five years old. Her mother got clean after a decade of struggling with substance abuse and moved them into Stratford House, a supportive housing program for formerly homeless families in The Bronx.
At first, moving wasn’t easy. Alexis had to adjust to living in a new environment with rigid rules and numerous other families who were also coming out of their own histories of crisis. The year she arrived, Free Arts brought their arts mentoring programs to Stratford. The decade spent in our programs that followed would change the course of Alexis’ life.
A self-proclaimed bookworm, Alexis preferred to read and make art rather than hang out with her peers in her neighborhood, known for its high rates of gang activity. Because of this, Alexis was frequently the target of bullying.
BIG DREAMS IN A SMALL NEIGHBORHOOD
Free Arts programs provided Alexis a safe space off of the street and access to explore a world far from Stratford. Alexis often talked to one of her mentors, Bernadette, about her future goals, of dreams that went beyond her life in the Bronx. Through these conversations, Alexis was able to grow a sense of pride, rather than shame, in her aspirations.