Support helped Jesse reach her mountaintop… She was an inner-city teen with so many strikes against her. Then she got into a program supported by CLICK that would change her life. She started to run. Then she realized she had it in her to climb a mountain. Jesse told her moving story at CLICK’s annual fundraising reception during 2015 Inner City Kids Week. Prepare to be inspired.
“If 3 years ago I was told that this is where I would be and this is what I would be doing with my life, I would have laughed and thought you don’t know me very well. The truth is, I didn’t know myself very well, I actually didn’t know myself at all. I was always trying to figure out what I was passionate about and trying to find out where I fit in. I joined an alternative school called Streetfront half way through my grade 9 year. I wasnt doing very well in school, I was unmotivated and pessimistic, moving from foster home to foster home and I felt very lost and alone. I knew I needed something different but I didn’t realize how much I really needed Streetfront till my grade 10 year.
I hated running or so i thought, I was the kind of kid that liked taking the easy way out but i soon learned that there’s no short cuts in life, there’s uphills, downhills, points where you feel like giving up and points where you know you can make it similar to running. I was inspired for the first time in my life, by an amazing man named Trevor Stokes. I was introduced to the importance of work ethic, healthy relationships and was starting to learn how to turn my resistance in to resilience.
On my first 10Km run I realized how much I enjoyed intelligent conversation and how wonderful it felt to be pushed to my limit and believed in. Streetfront was my home away from home. I remember my first half marathon, I kept puking and thinking what on earth have i gotten myself into. My legs were on fire and my lungs filled with ice, but the moment I crossed the finish line I knew that this is what I love and it made all the pain worthwhile..my mother was so proud of me. a month later she passed away of an overdose. That day I promised myself I would do everything and anything I could to be the woman she didn’t have the chance to be.
Shortly after I ran the full Marathon and was the first and only girl from Streetfront to do so. At the end of grade ten, my time at Streetfront was done, I moved on to britannia mainstream school so I could stay close by for my grade eleven year. Then rumors about a trip to kilimanjaro started going around and as baffled as i was by the idea, I knew it was something i had to do. during the summer i attended all the training hikes, and although hiking never seemed like something i would like, it was something i ended up loving, just like running. i couldnt have imagined a better way to spend my summer. then the school year came around, all I could think about was this trip. I did some fundraising through a website called go fund me and managed to raise almost half of my trip cost. Every street2peak meeting gave me buterflies and I needed to know if I was going to be chosen to embark on this once in a lifetime adventure. After months of training, funding and school I got the phone call, I was one step closer to reaching the peak and was chosen to be one of the 15 students to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
Every day up to departure was filled with anxiety and and excitement checking the gear, list looking up information and photos, vaccinations and finally packing. After 20 hours of travel time the plane had landed. I walked down the stairs of the plane onto the runway with the warm winds of Africa filling my heart and I broke into tears. I couldn’t stop thinking Oh my God I’m I’m Africa! We spent our first night at the hotel in the pool laughing and bonding till 3 am. I remember looking at one of the girls who I have known for years and couldn’t stop saying savannah were really here were in Africa. Then it was time to do what we came to do climb the mountain.
The days were long and exhausting, but fun and filled with smiles and beautiful sights. Then there were the times of tears and frustration, a couple students and staff had gotten altitude sickness forcing them to go down the mountain. Every day I was fearful that I would be one of them. The last day we woke up at 11 pm and after we ate started hiking in the dark with heavy eyes and heavy feet. It was almost minus 20, we were crying and overwhelmed yet full of determination. I was doing this for my mom. I held her ashes in my jacket close to my heart and kept saying to myself I can’t let her down. The Porter’s were singing for us and carrying our packs giving us all the support we could imagine. There was a steep part forcing me to go on my hands and knees, I was crying and felt like giving up but when I raised my head I saw one of our Porter’s reaching out his hand. He helped me up and there it was, the first sign. We made it. We were all hugging and bawling out eyes out but the journey wasn’t over we still had to make it to the third sign the summit. I remember falling to my knees when I had finally made it. I can’t put into words how I felt that day. I spread my mother’s ashes, setting her free and knowing I was doing the same for myself.
I learned more about myself on that mountain than I could have ever thought. If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. that trip and streetfront did both, they saved my life. I now aspire to inspire I want to be a teacher specifically for alternate school.
It’s not about where you’re from it’s about where you’re going.”