If you had different hardships in your life would you be a different person? The answer is most likely yes. A person’s character is based upon the experiences they have been through. “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant,” –Horace. In “And Still We Rise” by Miles Corwin, Corwin shares the lives of inner city kids who still strive to succeed and go to college although the circumstances they are dealt with have told them otherwise. Some of the kids that dealt with bad hands were Toya, Olivia, and Willie.
The struggles that they went through are impetuous. Growing up, Toya never knew her biological father. Instead she lived with her mom and stepfather. Toya would often see the two arguing and eventually it came to her stepfather beating her mother up on his drinking binges. Finally her mother getting so tired of this abuse grabbed her two daughters and took shelter. Although, once Toya’s mother could not afford the nightly shelter fee she arranged for her girls and herself to stay with a friend. When she went home one day to get the girls’ clothes her husband strangled her to death.
Toya walked in the bathroom to find her mother dead on the floor. After the murder of her mother, Toya and her sister were sent to a group home and later to their aunt’s house. Toya was sexually abused by her stepfather who had a huge effect on her. She later became pregnant and gave birth to a boy during her junior year. This ruined a lot for her in school. She was now going to study at home, return to high school the next year and attend college. “I didn’t have time to think about tomorrow. I had to survive today,” (47).
Her plans were completely ruined when both her aunt and cousin kicked her out. She could not graduate from high school but instead got her GED and will attend college with the help of her church. Like Toya, Willie’s parents were divorced. Willie lived with his mother and siblings until she was arrested. His mother had an addiction to cocaine and often left her children home for long periods of time. They were then separated into several different houses never to live with together again. Willie ended up living with his dad who was constantly working.
He strived in school because he didn’t want to end up like his parents. One afternoon Willie saw his mother passed out in a yard in the neighborhood. When things went wrong, all Willie could do was cry and be sad because he really had no one to turn to. Later in the year, Willie became homecoming king which symbolized to him that he did not let the past reflect the way he would end up. “Being named homecoming king was a powerful symbol to him that his past had not defined him nor deterred him from success,” (244).
He finished high school and later went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia for business. Willie did not let what his mother did or the lack of authority affect his success in going to college and quitting the cycle of his parents. From the beatings her mother gave her to going AWOL after hating foster homes, Olivia’s life was far from perfect. When Olivia was a teenager she was a ward of the county, hopping from one group home to another. Other girls would steal her clothes and chase her around with a hot iron.
She went AWOL shortly after that, living in her own apartment, having a crazy work schedule, that was just her life. Whenever she had financial issues she would return to her social worker and yet again be put into a foster home. One time she went AWOL though and couldn’t afford rent anymore, she was going to drop out of high school, when her counselor, Braxton, convinced her otherwise. “I don’t think God make you do good, or the devil makes you do evil. In the end it’s up to you,” Olivia said one day in English class (Corwin 43).
Unfortunately, Olivia didn’t always make the right choices. She was caught forging a check, but because she does not have any parents she was sent to jail to serve time. This all happened during Olivia’s senior year so she couldn’t take her AP exam but was allowed to finish high school. She was released from jail in time for college and went. She is now doing extremely well and helping kids in group homes every Saturday morning. Through hard times, good times will shine through.
These kids were given such difficult lives and it was their decision to do what that wanted with their lives. It is a lot harder to succeed when you have so much hate around you, but a lot of these students decided to persevere and make a better life for themselves. “Remember the past. Cherish the present. Conquer the future,” (398). Those were the encouraging words of Danielle, who was the valedictorian, during graduation. If everyone could just remember that saying, it would be a better world and all those hard trials would all be worth it.