The following was written by one of our Chosen youth. She has given us permission to share her story, and all names and identifying details have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
Hello, my name is Mona. I am 21 years old but was 20 when I became a part of Chosen. I am originally from America Samoa but came to Alaska to live and work to help support my family. Before I was introduced to the program, I was at the edge of giving up on life, my dreams, and especially had no hope for tomorrow.
At that time, I worked at The UPS Store, and one day an amazing gentleman came in. I helped him like I’d normally help everyone, giving him my time and attention and always smiling, no matter if it was a good or bad day. That day the store was pretty slow, so he and I were sharing about how good God has been, even though my true intentions were to give up. Then he started telling me about Chosen. I went ahead and did a little bit of research. But in the back of my mind I kept replaying how I was never ever chosen to do anything. And actually, I know that I have always chosen people, especially family, over what I know and believe in. So, the idea of me being chosen had never crossed my mind. My family would say that ‘tough love’ is best. Sadly, as I thought back, I had no memories of feeling like I was chosen in any way. All that came to mind was how I wanted to follow my dreams and live life my own way, but if I did that then my family would dislike me; so, it felt like there was no way that I would get their support. I could do a million things right, but if I didn’t give them something small that they need at that very moment, I became the bad guy.
Even though I was drowning, rowing a boat that had holes in it, I thought I still could survive. To please my family, I’d go out of my way for everyone else but not take one step for myself. No matter what I’d do, the only love shown was none other than tough love.
My research: ‘Chosen’ means to be selected, picked, or elected. The courage to fight battles others never would. The heart that has enough love for everyone you meet. Outshining others without trying. Shining the light in others’ dark path. Helping others strive for excellence always. All these meanings I came across and yet here I am: suffering and suffocating because I can’t really pinpoint a memory--or a day--I felt that I was chosen. As I cried myself to sleep, God revealed that I was hand pick and handmade by Him. How did I not think of this? I’m special to Him no matter what. So, He picked me to go through with the program.
So I did... with my mind still thinking, “hold back a little, maybe they want something. Maybe this and maybe that...” is what I kept thinking. Or maybe they wanted to take away my sister because at the time I had my 17- and 13-year-old sisters living with me. So, I felt like I had to be very careful with what I said. I met with the Program Director who helped me understand a little bit more about how Chosen worked. As I was filling out the papers, the fear crept in again. “Back out, they won’t understand you, ever.” But as my mind was holding back, my heart agreed to get help because I knew I needed help and support. Me and the Program Director had a great conversation about my life and then she said, “It’s funny how our whole conversation I have been asking about you and all your answers were about your family, your siblings. What do YOU want to do?” Again, my answer was that I wanted my siblings to have the life I couldn’t have and for them not to worry or stress.
A few days later I was introduced to the couple of the year, my mentors, who helped me be the person I am today. All along the way, I kept asking myself if this was really possible: to all of a sudden have this kind support, where they me guide me but most of all, laugh and cry with me. After meeting them and being able to trust them, I finally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even know exactly what the weight was. Maybe the weight of always second-guessing myself. But all of a sudden, those doubts were no longer there because I had people that wanted to hear about my day. If it was bad or good, they were always there to listen. No one had ever said this to me before, but my mentors say, "Whatever decisions you make, you have our support.” Best of all, they don’t tell me what to do, but instead they support me through it all. This boosts my confidence like a rocket that just took off. I now know I have people that support me, even if I get off mission or fail. I know that they are going to be there with me, encouraging me to start again. When I think about this, I cry happy tears and smile non- stop.
I’m proud to say that ever since I joined Chosen, I have become a better version of myself. Not once did I ever think or worry about them giving up on me, and that is the best thing about it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t thank them enough, but again I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being patient with me. Chosen team, it honestly feels like yesterday that I was at the edge of giving up, but today I say giving up will not be an option in any circumstance. I’d say, “If right does not look right, then left is always available. No one can stop you but yourself.” Like Nemo says, “Keep on swimming.” Today I, Mona, am the best version of myself with the help of Chosen. And remember, you too are chosen to do great things.