StandUp for Kids – Orange County
Some people have so much character that “lively” doesn’t encapsulate their energetic personality. This is true of Morgan, a youth who’s been with StandUp for Kids for the past year. At just 23 years old, Morgan has been through several lifetimes’ worth of struggles, yet remains strong. Morgan’s fiery personality has gotten her into trouble at times. It’s also brought her through the darkest of days and warmed all of our hearts at StandUp for Kids.
Morgan was raised by a single mother, who had her at a young age. They lived in the projects of Mason City, Iowa, relying on welfare and food stamps to make ends meet. With her mother working constantly, Morgan learned to look after herself, exploring the city with her friends and often partaking in more questionable behavior. Eventually, Morgan gained a stepfather who would bring her and her mother out of their financial troubles – but Morgan’s new small-town life came with its challenges. Transitioning to life with a new stepfather and later siblings, the limited freedoms of a tiny town with no stoplights, and overwhelming pressure to succeed in school all led Morgan to start acting out. Laughing about it now, Morgan describes herself as “the type of person you can’t tell what to do…I was bad. I was bad.”
Fortunately, Morgan found an outlet in softball. Despite pressure from her mother – a former player – the field was a place where Morgan could be free from the problems she faced at home. After high school, Morgan received a scholarship to North Iowa Community College for softball. Unfortunately, the newfound freedom Morgan received in college led her fiery personality to burn too quickly: “I couldn’t pass a drug test to save my life,” Morgan explained, and moved back home after getting kicked out of college. A downward spiral of new “friends” and contact with her biological father led to harder drug use, the loss of her job at a factory, and trouble with the law. While in court-ordered treatment, Morgan met a girl and came out as gay to her parents — but this too would end in tragedy. The girl committed suicide in front of Morgan’s eyes, sending her further down a dark path and eventually landing her in jail several times. Looking back, Morgan stated, “I went from having hope to no hope…It was like I was trying to live up to something I wasn’t. I was trying to be bad when I wasn’t.”
Eventually, Morgan was sent to treatment in California, moving from treatment center to treatment center until her insurance ran out. Fortunately, she had come into contact with StandUp for Kids, so she called our organization on the last day she could afford to stay at a Motel 6. Morgan met up with Denise Zermeno, our programs manager, who immediately got to work getting Morgan into a 7-day detox program and a place to stay in sober living housing. “I was like in shock that someone actually cared about me,” remembers Morgan.
Now Morgan’s fiery personality is working in her favor. She’s created strong connections with StandUp for Kids staff members, warming hearts with her immeasurable charisma. While 2020 has brought its fair share of trials for Morgan — from relapsing and crashing her car to overdosing — she’s kept her chin up the whole time. Now five months sober, she states that the “Beginning of 2020 was rocky, but at the end, I can only say it was a blessing.”
Morgan’s even begun planning for her future. She recently started her employment as a telemarketer at a technology company and is hoping to eventually head back to school to become a special education teacher. Most importantly, Morgan’s made friends and connections she truly values and relies on, stating, “I got people in my life now that I can call family.”.
Much to our joy, Morgan stated the friends she’s made at StandUp for Kids are part of that family. “Y’all saved me. The number of times you’ve saved me…I can’t even express how grateful I am to StandUp for Kids.” And StandUp for Kids is equally grateful to have Morgan as a part of our ever-growing family. Here is a clip where Morgan talks about her journey.