I can’t believe in less than 5 years later and multiple students have babies or are pregnant. I often think, “did I fail them? Was I too open? It was my fault they got pregnant.” I should have only taught abstinence. I shouldn’t have told them about my struggles. Being an open book was too open.

But I wanted them to learn. I wanted them to choose the right way. And if they didn’t choose the right way, I wanted them to, at least, choose the safer way.

Yet their bodies called.

The lure of lust, popularity, attention, and curiosity pulled. Constantly in front of them, I watched the battle, some hardly fighting, if fighting at all.

If he wanted it, he could get it, easily.

There was no “my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” There wasn’t even the sheer integrity of I’m worth more than what you bringin.

Instead, it was the “his hair is cute”, the “he makes me laugh” and the “he’s fine” that pretty much whisked unmentionables off in secret spaces prior to rounds of tickled secrets told in the dark.

As much as I wanted to save them – as much as I tried – I couldn’t.

Letting them know it was okay and normal to have those feelings while letting them in on the risks wasn’t enough.

Instead, legs flew open, and tests came back positive. Maybe not the first test. Maybe not the 15th. But eventually, the test came back positive.

If not anything else, I said use birth control. But even that, at times, was too much to ask. And I get it. Taking a pill at the same time every day is annoying, sometimes hard to remember, and sometimes we just don’t care enough to do it. That is until the test comes back positive.

Now my heart hurts because I feel like I failed you. I failed your parents. I failed my church. I failed myself. Nothing I did matters because I failed.

Now I watch these same students, turned adults, struggle as they look to support their families, yet have a hard time with consistent employment, some not in school. They struggle with where the next meal is going to come from and how they will provide shelter over both their own and their kids heads is real. And it hurts.

Knowing that I tried…not for me, but for you.

Ballin ain’t always about the how many numbers you can pull or how many dudes hittin you up. You gotta get it in in school and you gotta make wise decisions. That’s all I ever really wanted them to know. It’s okay to tell him no. I did. I still do, and I’m a grown woman.

I’m not sorry. My goods are a bit too valuable for just anyone to get up in it. I’m pretty sure I’ll always live like that. Not just cause momma told me but because I know my worth.

My biggest observation is that this debate is a reflection of class, respect, and experience. We all have different experiences and there seems to be a lack of understanding of those with different experiences and backgrounds. However, as citizens of America, we have to do better. We have to do better opening our minds to those around us. We have to take the time to ask questions and get to know the experience of others. And we have to respect each others experiences. When we do that, we can learn from one another. This is the only way we are going to get there.

This is not a race thing. It’s bigger. “It’s a human thing,” as I once heard someone say.

Maybe I have the ability to have an open mind because I know what its like to struggle. To hear shootings in the wee hours of the night. To have a home I was embarrassed to bring friends to. To have family members and peers injured and killed due to violence. To cry because I didn’t understand why my brother was able to be raised by his dad and I didn’t know where my dad was. To know that my mom didn’t eat because she made sure her family ate first.

But then I know what it’s like to be encouraged. What it’s like to taste something different. To, due to the many people around me, be exposed to so much more.

I know what it’s like to have a village surrounding me and encouraging me. Those who weren’t always condescending. Those who provided direction even when it didn’t feel good or when it went against the grain. But, even then, those who encouraged and allowed me to be myself and find myself and be strong in who I was.

Because of this village, I am now able to sow back into the lives of others. I am a statistic – one who if the numbers were to tell, would not be a college graduate. Instead, I would for sure be an alcoholic repeating the cycle of lower class living. But thanks to the village, given by the grace of God, I had a different outcome.

Statistics are only numbers. They have the ability to change. We, as a society, can be that change.

Regardless of the outcome of the debate, I’m calling for us to be that village. Those who take a children, teens and even our peers r and help them achieve ultimate excellence. Those who are willing to look beyond where they are, and instead, help them get to where they could be. Those who are willing to tell someone, “you are someone,” and that their quirkyness, high sense of fashion, or nerdiness is absolutely okay because there is a place for everyone.