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GUEST OPINION: How Hanna Boys Center changed my life

  • 4/17/2007: D8: Nathanial Garrod is a senior at Sonoma Valley High who lives at Hanna Boys Center. He is the mascot at Hanna and at the high school, dressing up as both a dragon and eagle.

    PC: LEDE / 1 of 2--Nathanial Garrod (CQ) is a senior at Sonoma Valley High and lives at Hanna Boys Center. He is both the mascot at Hanna and at the high school, dressing up as a dragon or an eagle. March 28, 2007. Press Democrat / Jeff Kan Lee

Social expectations predict that orphans who spent their first 14 years home-schooled by a single mother in Section 8 housing will not "make it." My very existence defies this prediction.

When my mom died of breast cancer, I was 15 and wanted to live with extended family. I wanted my aunt and uncle to fill in the parental shoes. I wanted to know the heritage I came from.

Instead they gave me something so much better than anything I could have ever asked for. They gave me my own history, my own heritage. They gave me the keys to see how I fit into my own story.

After my mother passed away, my family took me on a tour at Hanna Boys Center. They told me that if I chose to go to Hanna, it would be the best thing I could do at the time. I disagreed. It was suggested that I should apply anyway. Within five months, I moved my entire life from Santa Rosa out to the Sonoma Valley, where Hanna is located.

Living at Hanna Boys Center, I made my own stories. With the support of the staff and the time living with my peers, I began to create myself as an individual.

After I graduated high school, I began my college career at Sonoma State University. I am now 21 years old and mere days away from graduating with a bachelor's degree in English. In a month, I will be moving to Oklahoma for graduate school.

Hanna Boys Center has become something more in my life than a place I lived for 2? years. Hanna has become for me what a home is for many others. There are always new boys and staff, but the purpose never changes. The employees truly care for the students they work with — current and former. Without the support of the center, I would not be where I am. I think Hanna Boys Center is often overlooked in the beautiful community of Sonoma County.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I wanted to buy a car. Father John Crews let me borrow his car to shop around. The husband of a Hanna Center staff member went with me. When I found one I liked, one of the child care workers, who was relatively new at the center, called in a favor and got me a CarFax report on the vehicle. Another staff member taught me how to bargain, and I brought the asking price down from $3,000 to the price I actually paid: $2,200.

That's just one story. I could go on for days telling you how amazing the Hanna staff members are and what a difference they have made in my life. I could tell you about the struggles they have supported me through and the joys they have celebrated with me.

When I came to Sonoma State University, I made an effort to get involved. I have held a number of positions. I am proud of everything I have learned. I have learned to seek counsel from many sources. I have learned that silence is OK. I have learned that I cannot take on too many tasks. I have learned how to manage my time. I have learned that I have just barely scraped the top of the bucket of knowledge. I have learned that I am in charge of my story. I can make or create anything in my life.


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