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Changing Lives, One Car at a Time in North Carolina
Changing Lives, One Car at a Time
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Changing Lives, One Car at a Time in North Carolina
Welcome to "Cars for Kids," the charity that's committed to making a positive difference in the lives of children in need across the beautiful state of North Carolina. Your unused vehicle can be a powerful tool for change, supporting vital local initiatives that directly impact North Carolina's youth. By choosing to donate, you're not just parting with a car; you're becoming a driving force behind positive change.
Why Donate Your Car in North Carolina?
Christian and his father have known many closed doors.
After a medical discharge from the US Army, Christian’s father began a heating and air conditioning business. For a time, the business grew, and things were going well.
Christian’s mother, however, had developed a worsening drug habit. His worried father often woke up in the middle of the night, fearing he would find her dead from an overdose.
“My father,” Christian says, “gave my mother an ultimatum: it was either us or the drugs.
“She chose the drugs,” he remembers.
When his mother made her choice, Christian was all of eight.
A month after she left, Christian’s father encouraged him to visit her at his grandmother’s home, where his mother had been staying. Though deeply disappointed in her and not wanting to see her, he went. He spotted the family vehicle in the driveway of his grandmother’s house, but when he knocked on the door, no one answered. Then, he spotted a window curtain move and plainly heard his mother’s voice: “Don’t open the door.”
Shortly thereafter, Christian’s father got sick with pancreatitis. He was weakened and unable to work. Christian had to learn to care for his father, cooking small meals and helping his father to and from the restroom.
Christian’s mother, meanwhile, gutted the family’s savings account.
With no savings and no income, Christian and his father eventually saw the electricity cut and the water shut off. Baths were taken using gallons of water purchased from the store, meals were cooked by the grill, and clothes went unwashed. Christian’s homework had to be done while the sun was still up. He was bullied at school for his unwashed clothes.
Thanks to the generosity of their local Catholic church, Christian and his father received enough money to turn the electricity and water back on. His father could pay for the medical treatment he needed. Christian and his father felt stronger in their faith, and they continued to enjoy cooking out on the grill—which had become a bonding activity for them.
During his junior year, Christian was doing well. He was keeping up with his studies and excelling in a welding program. However, their home of many years was falling apart. The landlord, unwilling to cover the costs of repairs prescribed by the housing authority, locked Christian and his father out of their home. They could not afford the deposit on a new place to live.
For a month, Christian and his father were homeless, and they slept behind dumpsters. When they did find an apartment, it was in bad shape. Need forced them to take it.
Two more obstacles stood in their way. Following multiple ignored requests to address the apartment’s safety hazards, Christian’s father tripped on the ripped carpet in their living room, injuring his knees and losing some mobility.
“I’d had enough,” Christian recalls. He felt that, because of his family’s limited resources, they were being overlooked. Motivated to right a wrong, he made a close study of the lease: the landlord was in violation of the Fair and Equal Housing Act. Christian took action. Thanks to his advocacy with the housing authority, Christian’s father’s medical expenses were covered by the property management’s insurance provider, and a state inspector made an inspection of the entire property.
Still there was the second obstacle. Because he had missed too many days of school during their month of homelessness, Christian faced repeating his junior year. It was a blow.
Friends told him about Texans Can Academies and its accelerated curriculum recovery. When he and his father came for enrollment, however, they thought they had encountered yet another closed door—the school required uniforms, and he and his father could not afford it. They prepared to walk away.
Thanks to the school’s Whole Student program, however, Christian’s uniform was paid for. The same day, the school’s principal met with Christian and his father and took them to lunch in the cafeteria.
“That meant a lot to us,” Christian says.
The very next day, Christian was able to start school and get back on track.
From then on, Christian experienced the school’s generous welcome. When food was scarce, he availed himself of the school’s food pantry, and, in the classroom, he found the academic support he needed.
“The staff at Can have been great. They have shown me so much hospitality. My history teacher, Mr. Rodriguez, helped and encouraged me. He was very straightforward and set high expectations for me.”
“Because of the Can, I didn’t have to repeat my junior year,” he says.
Christian graduated from Texans Can in June 2019, and, taking advantage of the GI Bill and a scholarship made possible by proceeds from an annual community luncheon, has enrolled in St. Philip’s College’s pre-law program.
Christian and his father continue to enjoy cooking out on the grill together, and, with faith in God, they both look forward to a future of open doors.
“I am thankful the Can was there for me. I know I have a lot more to give, and a lot more to achieve.”
Steven's Success Story
Last Friday at a seafood buffet in Washington D.C. I got a phone call. It was from a publicist for my school, Texans Can! Academy at Carrollton-Farmers Branch. Over the past week, I had been blogging about my experiences at the Stephen Tyrone Johns Summer Youth Leadership Program at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the nation’s capital.
She told me that she had read my blogs and wanted me to write an autobiographical article. It was like a dream, I was happy enough having my blogs published on the internet. Now I'm going to have my work published in a real newspaper. Although I may have procrastinated, I believe I do my best work in the clutch. So here is my story.
Born a healthy seven pounds, six ounces on the morning of September 6, 1991. I came into the world with a loving family, and a wonderful community to help raise me. My parents were both deaf, and as you can imagine, this can make things difficult when it comes to communication. Luckily, I learned sign language at a young age. When I was only seven or eight months old, I learned some simple signs from my parents and grandparents. I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been for my parents to communicate with their hearing child.
As I grew older, my knowledge of sign language gained momentum and grew like a snowball tumbling down a powdery, snow-blanketed hill. I was a bright child, and drank in knowledge like a dry sponge. Even though I knew sign language, there were still communication issues. My hard-of-hearing mother could speak, but had a speech impediment. When you cannot hear your own voice clearly, it’s hard to correct your speech. My favorite anecdote illustrating this happened when I was 4. I remember my mother was cleaning my ears. When I asked what was in them she replied “earwax.” Because of my mother's speech impediment I heard her say “ear rats.” From then until I was six I believed that there were rats in my ears.
Reading and spelling came easy to me, so if there was a word in ASL I didn't know, I could always spell it out. This helped me a lot in school. I was proud of my ability to spell and write, but school often bored me. I did well on tests, projects, and other assessments, but rarely turned in homework. People always told me that I was smart, but needed to apply myself more. Doubting my own intelligence, I thought that’s what they told everyone. I still loved reading, writing, and learning, just not school.
I learned a lot about life and the world from my parents and would never trade them or their disability for anything. I have them to thank for my concern for others and my ability to empathize. They are very caring individuals who would do anything to ensure the well being of those around them. I inherited this skill from mom and dad, and it is part of the reason I can convey and understand others’ emotions so naturally. I am fond of telling people that sign language is body language’s most extreme and thorough manifestation. To communicate what the hearing can with tone and pitch, the deaf communicate so much more emotion in their facial expressions and movements.
Because of their lack of hearing, they have to be so much more attentive to non-verbal cues than the hearing , and growing up in that kind of environment allowed me to more readily be able to pick up on those things. Growing up, religion was a big part of my life. As a child, I served as an altar boy and sang in the choir. Although I liked being a part of the church, and the praises I got from my family and church community, I think it was too much responsibility at a young age. I remember how easily I could be distracted during choir practice. My eyes would drift from the sheet music as I thought about how much fun I could have had I skipped practice that day. I stopped going to choir practice, and eventually church altogether. This is when I entered the somewhat rebellious stage most do. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, smoking cigarettes, and skipping school. This only got worse when my parents separated. As in many situations where a parent leaves, I could not help but blame myself. Between my brother and me, I took mom and dad’s separation the hardest. I started smoking pot and drinking, probably to cope with my mother’s departure. This in turn had a more dramatic effect on my school attendance. I normally passed most of my classes, but because of my poor attendance my high school career was badly derailed; I only had two credits earned with twelve weeks left in the last semester of my sophomore year. I would have dropped out, but thanks to my counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School, I was given a second chance.
She told me that I could either go through truancy court again, or go to a charter school in Farmers Branch called Texans Can! Academy. Realizing this was my best option, and only chance to graduate on time, I jumped on the opportunity and straightened up my act. My attendance improved greatly and despite a few bumps along the way I am now officially a senior. I should be graduating in the next year and I'm ready to start college soon. I have not found the right university for me yet, but I do know that I want to become a deaf education teacher. Jesse Jackson said once, “The problem is not that the students cannot hear, the problem is that the teachers do not listen.” I feel like Reverend Jackson was speaking directly to me; demanding I become a teacher to help shape young minds, especially those of the deaf. I have the advantage of being a hearing person in possession of a special understanding and deep relationship with the deaf community cultivated in my upbringing. I can relate and communicate with students, and have the caring attitude it takes to empathize with them. I have learned so much from the deaf community and the only thing I would like more than to give back to that community is to teach it's most important lessons and skills to the hearing. Teaching has always been that option that sat patiently in the back of my mind, a plan-B where I knew I could succeed but not necessarily what I wanted in a career. I have only recently discovered it as my true vocation. I have always enjoyed educating others and felt I was very informative. I have also had many inspiring teachers over the years. Foremost among them is my current History and Journalism teacher, Mr. Aubrey Leveridge. I have only known Mr. Leveridge for a year; 2009-2010 was his first year teaching and even though this is only his second year as a teacher at Texans Can!, I have adopted him as my official role model. I can only hope that I can become half the teacher he is.
Teaching is more than my calling, it is also my familiy’s legacy. My grandmother taught science, and my aunt teaches special education. I come from a long line of educators. A gift has been given to me in my ability to sign and understand the deaf. Manifested in my heart is a great concern for others and I have seen firsthand the mistreatment of deaf people; ranging from staring and poor service in stores and restaurants to great difficulty finding work. I have had a terribly difficult time finding a job this summer probably because of the economy and am very well aware how difficult it is for my father. I remember reluctantly tagging along on job interviews with him because there was no interpreter. He has been out of work for some time now, and I hope he can find the right job. For the most part, the treatment of those with hearing disabilities has been sub-par from my perspective. It is my goal to change that, if only for a few people. My recent trip to and participation in the Steven Tyrone Johns Summer Youth Leadership Prgram at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. has inspired me to found a deaf awareness group. I plan to teach my peers sign language and the progression and treatment of deaf people throughout history. Also, there will be events where hearing and deaf students can come together and just have some good old fashioned fun like when my parents would take me to the deaf chat at Starbucks every Saturday. This is where I got the idea for the awareness group.
I often reminisce about attending and fondly remember the fascinating stories I heard. Watching a deaf person tell a story is a very engaging experience. You can almost feel the same emotions they did at the time. I want to show others the attentive and caring nature of the deaf community. Hopefully through education and sympathy, I can make a difference for deaf people. I have many aspirations for the future including starting a deaf friendly non-profit organization that will offer employment opportunities and aid for the deaf and the hearing alike. I want to make a contribution to society in the best way possible, and that is through action. In the community of Holocaust museums and historians, this is called being an “upstander” instead of a bystander. In order to make a change, you must actively pursue life and never stop until you achieve your goals.
I have been through a lot over the years. I was evicted from my childhood home, and again from my first apartment. My parents split up, and my mom moved away, but I never let those things get me down. I have been inspired by my own hardships, and the tribulations of those around me to better myself and set the stage for a bright future. I just hope that my story will communicate this inspiration to others. It is the nature of man to struggle, and without it we are nothing. There would be no life lessons or morality, and the world would be a boring place. I have lived my life to the best of my ability, and I have no regrets. I may be young, but I have learned a lot about life through experiences. I always try to remember Otto von Bismarck’s admonition, saying fools learn from their own experience while wise men learn from the experience of others.I want to live this adage as an example to people in a manner suggesting they learn from my mistakes and build on my successes.
Despite my shortcomings and setbacks and because of the man they have made me, you are reading my words, but they could be someone else’s. I am not the only young person to have suffered in life and then grown from it; I am not the only young person with a voice; and I am especially not the first young person to want to change the world, yet here are my words. For those of you who have not suffered and grown, for those of you who have not found your voice, and for those of you who have never wanted to change the world; you will. You will suffer and you will grow; your voice is there, but you have to hear it before anyone else can; and when you are ready to change the world, let me know because I will help you if you help me.
For those of you who have done all these things already, remember what it was like to be me and help me help you. In closing, I would like to thank my family, my teachers, my community, and anyone who helped raise me along the way. For they are my guides and I the true maker of my destiny. They inspire me to better myself, and I want to make them proud.
Paola grew up in a traditional home. Both of her parents supported her ambitions, and she was the perfect daughter - until she started to surround herself with the wrong crowd.
Paola began to rebel. Skipping school became the norm.
“I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped going to school; I basically dropped out,” Paola said. “I was so used to skipping class, I didn’t care who found out or what my family would think.”
Her mother was devastated when she found out Paola had been skipping school. She tried to convince Paola that education was the only way to have a prosperous future, but Paola refused to listen.
Everyday, Paola’s mom would shield her husband from reality. She knew he could not bear the truth about his daughter’s downfall.
“My dad never knew I was skipping school. It was only my mom. One day she couldn’t take it anymore. She finally told him.”
It was difficult to shatter her husband’s reality, but after realizing Paola was out of control, she finally built the courage to tell her husband the truth.
“She called my dad while he was working, and he had a heart attack. It hurt. It was the worst thing in my life. I hate that I had to learn the hard way, while my dad is the one who suffered.”
“That’s what changed me,” she said. “It took such a drastic event in order for me to change. I realized I went too far. I couldn’t let my family down anymore.”
“I couldn’t lose my dad,” she said.
“After that, I wanted to get my life straightened out. My mom didn’t want me to give up on school, but I couldn’t go back to my old school because I didn’t have enough credits,” Paola explained. “So I went to a private school, and it didn’t work out either. That’s when I heard about Texans Can.”
Paola could tell the school was very different than the others she’d tried.
“When I started going here, I realized how much discipline I needed,” she said. “The second I got here, I felt the love from the school. Every advisor and teacher have been nothing but helpful.”
“At a traditional high school they just give you a packet. At Texans Can it’s not like that. They’re interactive at every step. They never just sit in the back and act like they don’t care.”
“I always say if I knew about Texans Can since the beginning I would’ve started here my freshman year. This is a unique school, everything about it is special.”
Texans Can’s college-readiness program has even inspired her to pursue more than a high school diploma.
“I want to go to the army and be a nurse on base, so I can help people,” she said. “I’ve heard many people say Texans Can is for kids who don’t have anything to do. People talk down on the school, but it’s not like that at all.”
“This school is amazing. Iit changed my life. If I had not come here, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably still in the same hole, never able to get out,” she said. “Now I can make my family proud and prove to my dad I have changed for the better. I never want to hurt him again.”
My name is Kaya and I am a Texans Can Academy alumna.
Originally from a rough Chicago neighborhood, Kaya was frequently in fights.
“That was the only way I knew how to deal with things,” she says. “It was important to show others in the neighborhood I could protect myself.”
Despite a move to Arlington that brought positive change to her family, Kaya still fought at school and skipped classes. She reached out to teachers and advisors for help, but they seemed either busy, or like they didn’t know how.
In December 2017, Kaya was involved in another fight at school. This time, she was arrested. She calls the experience “eye-opening.”
“I can do better than this,” she decided.
After the arrest, with public school no longer an option for her, Kaya learned of Texans Can and enrolled at the Carrollton/Farmers Branch campus.
“It was so different,” Kaya says. “Other students were positive. Everyone had a story and a mission they are trying to accomplish for their lives. The teachers and advisors were supportive and showed me that I was welcomed and cared for.”
During her time at the Can, Kaya never missed a class. She joined their championship-winning golf team, on which she served as captain; went from failing to straight A’s; passed the SAT with a score of 1270—which is above average—and applied to over thirty colleges.
Kaya is also a recipient of the Ann and Nate Levine Scholarship, which she will apply to her college education.
“My plan is to join the reserves and then go to college directly after boot camp,” she says. “I want to study psychology and form a career around helping girls like myself who are in difficult situations.”
Kaya graduated from Texans Can – Dallas in 2019.
Olivia's Success Story
I dropped out for a while but finally enrolled in Austin Can! Academy. It was a big change to have smaller classes and uniform but when I am in the classroom the teachers actually teach! If you do not understand something, they take the time to explain things and encourage me to go to tutoring.
In the past, I never knew what I scored on TAKS but since I’ve been at Austin Can! my math score has increased a lot and my score has gone up 200 scale points. I never took my academics seriously in the past, but the staff helped me to believe in myself! I will be graduating this June and then will attend college.