My name is Antoine Phillips. I am a 17 year old senior at Dorsey H.S.
I am writing to try to explain how my life is changed because of A Chance for Children Foundation. I am writing this because my mom asked me to. My “mom” is not really my mom, but the lady who is A Chance for Children. I have a mom, but I call Tai mom because she has been a mom and more to me.
I been knowing Tai since I was 7 years old. I was a student then at 109th Street Elementary School in Watts. I lived on 114th Street with my mom and grandma and so many other adults and children I can’t even remember. I mostly remember all of the adults using crack. And I remember how dirty it was. My cousin, Johnny used to go off with white people and then come home and he was different than most of the other kids. I wanted to be like him. When he went away to college I didn’t understand exactly what that meant to our family, I just knew on Saturday we would watch Arizona football because he played there and it was exciting. A Chance for Children gave the scholarship to put my cousin through college.
When Johnny left for college, Tai (A Chance for Children), started working with me and some of my other cousins. The first thing I did was go to summer camp at Pepperdine University in Malibu. I wanted to live there. I had never seen anything like it. The cafeteria had so much food and we could eat as much as we wanted. I will never forget that. On the way there I saw the beach. I would go there the next day and out on a boat. I had never seen the ocean.
I was terrified of the water, but I learned to swim. I met famous people, like tv stars and Olympians. I met Pete Carroll and played football with him. He invited me to football camp at USC and he became my friend. I went to football camp at USC two times.
After camp, Tai would come get us and take us out of the neighborhood on Saturdays. I knew I could count on her. Then at nine years old, me and my cousin Saadiq started spending summers with her. We took dive lessons at Pepperdine University and also took surf lessons. We were the only black kids and at first that bothered me but then we all learned we were just alike. When I thought I wanted to be an artist, Tai go me art supplies and books to help me. She encouraged me and told me I was good.
She sent me to the Sylvan Learning Center. I hated it. But I know it was just to help me be better in school. I moved schools every few months as a kid. A lot of the time I didn’t go to school at all. So it was hard to keep up.
With A Chance for Children I have done things I never dreamed of. I ate sushi. I been to the Hollywood Bowl and Pageant of the Masters. I know the names of all kinds of palm trees. I scuba dive and played water polo. I met all kinds of people and even famous people are just real people like us. I know what I want because now I have dreams.
Tai took me to Virginia, Washington, D.C., Cape Cod, Palm Springs, Laguna, Santa Barbara, Hawaii, and San Diego. I touched giraffe and swam with dolphins. I learned somany things. Most of all I knew I never wanted to join a gang. But for so many people around here it’s cool. I saw my cousin Johnny go off to college. I saw my other cousin get killed on my front porch in a driveby on 114th Street. In June, my best friend was killed in a driveby. I will never forget the blood coming out of his head. I wanted to be like Johnny since I was seven years old.
My mom has six kids. And a few years ago, Tai had to help us get into a homeless shelter. The same shelter I have helped her volunteer at Christmas and Halloween and for Easter. It was so embarrassing. But now we are in a house on 7th Ave. near USC. My dream is to go to college and get a good job.
I spend my summers working as a counselor at Canyon Creek Sports Camp in Lake Castaic. ACFC helps kids get summer jobs.
Most weekends, I would still rather spend my time with Tai doing stuff than doing anything else.
All I am trying to say is that my life is different than most of my friends because of A Chance for Children. Mostly because of my mom, Tai Collins. I know she loves me. And as much as I want to stay away from gangs and trouble, mostly I don’t want to let her down.
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