May 16, 2018
Growing up in East Los Angeles you are either in a gang or a loner. Because I had a few friends who embraced the gang lifestyle, I decided to follow them.
I was baptized into the Church at age eight, but by 10 it was no longer a part of my life. I eventually made my way back the Church, but it wasn’t easy. Thanks to PathwayConnect, I’ve been able to progress and get my education.
Becoming Addicted at 14 Years Old
Growing up, the local gang members seemed to watch over all of us neighborhood kids. I felt like I needed their guidance because my dad wasn’t around very often — he did drugs and abused us at times.
When I turned 13, I started hanging around a tag crew, a group of people who were known for spray painting graffiti all over the city. It was around that time that I also became associated with multiple gangs.
Within the next year, we moved to the San Fernando Valley with my dad no longer in the picture. At 14, I began selling meth and tried my first line of crystal meth. I became completely addicted to the point where a day rarely went by without me getting high.
By age 15, I returned to the LA area and became submerged in the world of drugs. I attended raves, joined up with gangs, and continued selling. I even started working as a middle man, picking up drugs out of town and bringing them back to LA for gangs to distribute.
Seeing people get locked up, shot, and killed took a toll on my mind, and I began to feel paranoid. I panicked over who among my friends were informants for the police and always thought people were after me. I constantly worried about being turned in.
I was arrested at the age of 21 for selling weed. After being in jail for two weeks, I was put on probation. I spent time in and out of jail for the next few years after that.
Choosing the Right Side of the Fence
When I was 23, I was sentenced to 16 months in Twin-towers Correctional Facility, a women’s state prison, for being in possession of a pound of meth. Because of my addiction, I still found ways to get high, even behind bars.
I spent my first two months in solitary confinement. I rebelled against the deputies because I didn’t want to be around the other inmates in the main area of the prison. Spending time alone gave me a lot of time to think, and I eventually started to pray. I got my hands on a Bible and began to read.
After two months, I came out of solitary confinement and met a girl who happened to be Mormon. After hearing about my Bible studies, she told me that I should find a Book of Mormon and read it. I took her advice. As I began reading, I realized that I needed to make a choice after I got out of prison. Which side of the fence was I going to live the rest of my life?
I decided to apply for a life skills class that the prison offered. I knew an education was important, and it could possibly reduce my prison sentence. I got into the program and ran into that same Mormon girl while we were at the school dorm. With her help, I really became interested in the Book of Mormon and religion. I made a promise to God that when I got out of prison, I would go back to church.
Detoxing and Gaining a Crucial Relationship
Unfortunately, I didn’t make good on my promise. A few months later, I started drifting back to the lifestyle I had before.
Four months went by, but I felt disgusted with where I was. I remembered how much happier I had been in prison studying the Book of Mormon and gaining a relationship with God.
I needed to detox. I stayed inside my house for a month, spending most of my time in bed. It was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced. My muscles spasmed, I screamed, threw up, cried, and couldn’t sleep. My body and mind longed to fall back into old habits.
Relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ
One day, two sister missionaries — one from Mexico and the other from Boston, Massachusetts — knocked on my door. The timing could not have been more perfect. They began to teach me the gospel and about Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
I missed my addictions when I was with those sisters, but I knew they were sent by God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is what helped me to overcome all the hardships I went through. Christ’s Atonement is real.
The sisters helped me to create a completely new environment for myself. I knew how critical it was to stay on the right track.
Finding a Second Chance
I had been active in the Church again for only three months when I started to feel lost. I had cut those things out of my life that were keeping me from my Heavenly Father, but I needed to progress — to find my purpose and a second chance in life. That was when the Pathway missionaries joined our Sunday School class. As they explained PathwayConnect, one thing in particular caught my attention, “PathwayConnect is a stepping stone to true success.”
As they finished speaking, I was overcome by the Spirit. I had finally found an opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of. I knew this program would be the first step in creating a better me.
When I started my application, I remember thinking, “I am a high school dropout. How am I going to get through these courses? I haven’t been to school in seven years.” Yet I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to succeed and would help me accomplish anything, and through these courses, I learned that I really could be a college student and discovered talents I never knew I had. I came to truly see myself as a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father, capable of learning and progressing.
I love pushing myself to find what I’m capable of. I know that I can accomplish anything, because I feel like I have already overcome the impossible. I desire to rise above the natural man to see how far I can go, because I never want to be a person that stays in one spot.
I strongly believe that I would not be where I am today without PathwayConnect. And where am I now? I am at BYU-Idaho, attending classes on campus with only one more year until I graduate with my bachelor’s degree.
Through my journey, I’ve realized that it’s not about how far you have come; it’s about how far you can go. That no matter where you are in life, Heavenly Father never wants you to stop growing, He only wants you to succeed. And it was PathwayConnect that gave me that second chance.
No matter what is happening in your life, just like Stacy, PathwayConnect can help you get back on the right track – spiritually and educationally. Visit byupathway.lds.org to learn more.