May 9, 2017  |  Boston & Cambridge Education Health Housing Social Capital

Karla Walker

My name is Karla, I am a single mother of a 13-year-old son. My son and I have always been extremely close, as over the years it has primarily been the two of us. As the years have progressed, I noticed that my son was struggling more and more with his identity. Although he has a relationship with his father, I think he was challenged by his father’s day-to-day absence, and the stigma of being a black male as viewed through the media and much of society.

As a single mom, I struggled with balancing the tough nature that an active father brings with the nurturing that is natural for a mother. Although my son is generally well behaved and respectful, he started to shows signs of confusion and unhappiness. He would withdraw a lot, spending lots of alone time in his room. He would have disruptive and emotional outburst in school and at home and for what seemed like very small things. And his grades were failing.

In September of 2016, the opportunity of FII came into our lives. I was eager to participate in an organization that would provide me with resources and encourage my goals. What I didn’t know is that it would make me take a deeper look into myself in order to achieve my goals. As a result of meeting with my peers and really figuring out the direction I wanted my life to move in, I was able to clearly see the steps I needed to take to create health and well-being in my life.

What was most important to me was providing a healthier life for my son, as I recognized that has everything to do with his level of success. We (my son and I) started to place a lot of focus on how we were eating. Eliminating take out, making healthier food choices, participating in fitness groups, sports, etc. With these initial goals, we joined kick boxing together and I signed him up for a community soccer league. I also signed my son up for a program that focused on healthy eating and behavior modification.

As we were spending more time together with intentional activities, I noticed that he was less isolated. We would utilize our long car rides to talk more. I was able to talk with him about strategies to deal with complicated issues at school and with his peers. I dedicated time to take him to ball games, which were an amazing experience for him.   The effect of our efforts was very noticeable. Over the course of seven months, I am gratified to report that my sons’ grades have improved tremendously and his self-confidence continues to grow. As a result of the OWL (Optimal Weight for Life) program that we joined, he lost eight pounds and is very diligent about eating healthy foods.

Our success can also be attributed to the due diligence of our FII Family Liaison Jessica DaSilva — who has played such a valuable role in not only the success of my family, but the success of my entire FII family group “Powerhouse.” Jessica has made sure that we, as a group, stay on task with our meetings, encouraged us to share resources and best practices amongst ourselves, and has encouraged us to be accountable to each other. It has led us to such great successes in just a matter of months.

It was the clear goal setting, my own accountability, and the access to resources like the health match and family time stipends that helped to make this all possible for my family. My son and I are in such a better place in terms of our health — both mentally and physically. We are communicating effectively, and we are both making a conscious effort in our growth.

My ongoing goal is to build my savings toward the purchase of a home. I would also like to save for education opportunities that will support my sons’ goals of studying video game-making technology and coding. He has stated that he wants to go to college for this, but we need to start preparing for that now. As well, I am hoping to continue my education with any opportunities that come my way.

 

I am grateful for the opportunities that FII has afforded me. It is a privilege for me to be a part of such a progressive and innovative program that has invested in the improvement and development of families and community.

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