Angelique was a part of the very first group of teen girls who began meeting together with Treetops staff to build community as New Americans. She told her story at our Third Annual Celebration back in October, and we want to share it with you now. Your gifts extend the opportunities that Angelique leveraged during her time at Treetops to girls who are coming behind her.
I came to the US with my family when I was 15 years old. Before that, we lived in a refugee camp––life was so different from here. We didn’t have electricity; sometimes we barely found enough food. Life was hard, because even if you had an education, you may not get a job.
When we arrived in the US, absolutely everything was new and I was overwhelmed. Everything here was so big and I felt like I would never learn and understand it all. I couldn’t communicate with people in English and didn’t know how to ask for things or have a conversation. Coming to the US was very different and much more difficult than we imagined.
Then, one day at school someone came to share about Treetops. Her name was Clementine and as she shared, I wanted to join. I’m grateful for Clementine taking that first step to find me. I’m grateful for my cross-cultural partner, Teresa. I’ve gotten to where I am because of her. She tutored me when school was difficult, helped me learn English, and gave me advice on life.
For a while, Teresa would come twice a week to help me practice driving, even letting me use her car! I was afraid to crash it and she was so generous! I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get my license, but she helped me and I did it! Teresa sacrificed to help me. But we also did fun things like go to the beach. I introduced her to my grandma, and my family loves her.
Sylvia is the leader of our group at Treetops and she has also been amazing. She is such a unique person because she gives so much. I love how she cares for everyone. She is an example and a role model for me. I have watched her go through college and it has inspired me.
Sylvia also leads our group workshops. I like the workshops because I get to see everyone in the group and the Treetops team and I learn a lot. At one workshop I heard things from my high school counselor that I never heard at school because she didn’t have the time and chance to say it, but in the space at Treetops I learned so much from her.
I got to work in the social enterprise program at Treetops and learned things that will help me get jobs I get in the future. I learned how to take care of customers, how to understand my strengths, and how to be creative.
We also go to leadership camps together, which I really love. Spending time together overnight, all the girls in the group really got to know each other and bonded. Many of us came from the same area in Africa, but we weren’t connected. Now we’re friends and know each other’s families. Now, we are deeply connected.
Because of Treetops, I went to the LEAD program at the mayor’s office, where I learned how to dress for jobs, how to go to interviews, how to communicate like a professional, how to prepare for the future. I also got to meet Mayor Bliss, which was very cool.
I learned many things during my time with Treetops and through all the people I am grateful to know through Treetops. I learned how to communicate. Now I can have a conversation with anyone. I help my family by reading letters and emails.
I have learned to not judge a book by its cover. I learned that I can be a leader. I never imagined that I would be. But I’m now the leader of my choir at church. Treetops helped me understand everything that comes with being a leader, like being responsible, always doing the right thing, communicating with people by listening to them and understanding them.
I also learned how to be part of a group and I think it’s smart that Treetops brought us together in a group. If people work together they can do anything. And if you have a purpose you can do anything, and you will go far.
When I was in 9th-grade things were so hard I was afraid I wouldn’t graduate. But now I’m a senior and I’m succeeding. I like helping people because I know how it feels when someone helps you. I decided that if I work in the medical field I can help people, so I plan to go to college.
I’m so happy with my life now. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it and I have the confidence and courage to keep going. No matter how difficult it might be I know what I’m doing now and I know what I want.
I also know the people at Treetops really love me. And they don’t just say they love you, but they do something to show you they love you. Treetops is so special to me––like family. And now I feel like I’m home.
I’m glad that Treetops is starting a new teen girls group next year because there will be other girls that get to experience what I did. They will gain so much and I want that for others. I will never forget Treetops and the ways they changed my life.