“I grew up in a two-parent home until I was 13 years old, but after my parents divorced, things changed drastically. We moved around a lot, and I didn’t really experience stability again until I was 21 and able to get my own place. By then I had two children: my first when I was 16 and my second when I was 20. I started working at the casino while I was attending college, and it went fine for a long time, but I was always kind of naïve, always trusting, thinking everyone was my friend, and I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. They were big-time gamblers, but they had the money to gamble and I didn't. Once I started, it was downhill from that point on. I lost everything. I was still going to school, and I finished my bachelor’s degree in health administration, but then my father passed. That was really hard, and it just seemed like everything spiraled out of control. Our lifestyle changed dramatically. We were what people call ‘hood-rich’---that is, we had the finer things in life---but after the gambling started, we had to do without, which the kids weren’t used to. They’d say, ‘What is this? You need to get your life together. We’ve never lived like this.’ They were right. I knew I had to get help, so I did. I still work at the casino, but I’m not gambling anymore. I slipped up a few months ago, so it’s still a process, but I’m determined to stay away from it. I want to do something different with my life and get into the health care field; that’s what my degree is in, and that's what I’m working toward now. I want to have a more stable income and know exactly how much I’m going to earn every year. I don’t want to be in a situation where if I don’t make a certain amount tonight, I won’t be able to pay my light bill. That’s not a good way to live.”
Lakeva is a student at HopeWorks / 1930 Union Avenue / (901) 272-3700.