I try to share my story with as many hearts as my voice can reach because I want to help women and girls think through their traumas and come out the other side. Through other people’s experiences you can see that you have more choices than you think even when facing a crisis. This is why I choose to highlight individuals who have experienced intense struggles, and turned the tides around.

I feel I am relatable to many young women and girls who, at some point, have allowed their pasts to define them. We live our lives with a dark cloud hovering over our heads. Instead, our situations can be used to give others hope, and I strive to be someone who exemplifies this.

– Deena Gray-Johnson

Stories Restoring Lives: Deena G. Johnson

Rashema Melson

by Deena Gray-Johnson

I was longing to ask Rashema what advice she would give to other youngsters who might give up when faced with adversity. She said she didn’t want to sound cliche’ but her advice is, “just keep your head up, when you fall down, get up again, and always be yourself, this is the most important thing.”

Rashema is the valedictorian of her class at Anacostia High in Washington D.C. this year, and is heading to Georgetown University with $100,000 in scholarship offers. But few know that she has a 4.1 grade point average but that has kept her grades up despite her family being currently homeless.

The Melsons all live in the city’s family homeless shelter which used to be the D.C. General Hospital. Rashema arrived at the shelter two years ago with her mother and younger siblings. Rashema’s mother made the decision to move there in order to escape the violence of their former neighbourhood in the District of Columbia. The situation where they use to live is so bad that police officers are on duty every day when school closes to escort the students home and guard them against the surrounding gang violence. In the midst adversity, Rashema is striving. She’s planning to study Forensic Pathology, a choice she made because her father was shot and killed when she was only nine months old. She intends to become a medical examiner.

Rashema is talented and gifted, and is also a student athlete. A brilliant example of someone whose sheer life force can inspire so many others to find it in themselves as well. To find out more about Rashema:

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