Sometimes you just need to be given a chance. Sometimes you need to be given a lifeline. For Demetria Wiley, that vital support came from Big Brothers Big Sisters and the agency’s scholarship program.
Demetria grew up in a family where her mother was abused and she herself experienced abuse as well. “As a child, I had to struggle. I was really depressed,” Demetria said. “My mom always tried to do things to keep my sister and me happy and away from any type of stress.”
However, Demetria’s mom had troubles of her own. She suffered from mental illness and spent time in the state hospital while her children went through foster care. “It was a tough life,” Demetria recalled. “I was one of those kids who wasn’t supposed to make it.” And at one point, it seemed as though she really wouldn’t make it. Demetria attempted suicide – sparking her family to take action. That was when Demetria’s mom signed her up for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I got a Big Sister and I was so excited,” Demetria said. “My Big Sister was my best friend. She treated me like family, even though we were not the same race – she was Caucasian and I was African-American. We did everything from bike riding to going to the movies together. She helped me with my homework, and she encouraged and supported me.”
Despite her Big Sister’s support and encouragement, Demetria didn’t think she had a chance of pursuing higher education. “I never thought I’d go to college because we moved around so much,” Demetria remarked. “I attended 9 or 10 different schools as a child and always had to catch up on schoolwork, but even so I managed to get straight A’s.”
Due to her academic success, educators offered her an opportunity to attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, a private college preparatory school in Central Texas, as part of a special program. She would be one of the first African-American students, a thought that frightened her. “I thought, ‘No, I can’t handle that,’” she said. “I turned it down and figured that I’d never get another opportunity to attend college or to receive any other scholarships.”
Despite her doubts, Demetria soon discovered, that she could get another scholarship through BBBS, one that would help her pay for college. “That was such a gift,” Demetria said. “It helped me so much by furthering my education. Getting that scholarship showed me that I had the ability to do anything I wanted to in life. And with that motivation I thought ‘I’m not gonna stop here!’”
And Demetria didn’t stop. She earned not only one degree, but two. She currently has a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management and she is working on a Master’s Degree. While pursuing her Bachelor’s degrees, she joined the National Guard, where she served for 10 years. She is currently a Sergeant and works on weekends. Her full-time job is with Austin’s airport where she works in Human Resources.
Her successes, determination and education have inspired her sister, her daughter and her son to attend college as well. Both of Demetria’s children have also been enrolled in the BBBS program and both are due to receive scholarships this year.
“The BBBS program is so important. It’s something kids can utilize when they have absent parents, when they don’t have self-esteem, when they need motivation, and when they need something to help them get where they need to be in life,” she said. “It’s very difficult when you’re a kid and you’re struggling and you don’t have any idea what your future might be.”
“And the Scholarship Program makes such a difference,” Demetria continued. “Receiving a scholarship gave me the motivation to pursue my academic goals. It also gave me the sense that my dreams, and I, were worthwhile.”
“Kids need to know that there are programs out there that can help them; that they can use to get ahead. And that, despite really hard times, they can make it if they try.”
“My Big Sister, BBBS and BBBS’ Scholarship Program gave me help when I needed it and now I want to use the opportunities and experiences I have had to give back.” Demetria said.