By Dakota Chronis, Student, North Seattle Community College; SchoolHouse Connection Young Leader
One of my earliest memories is my father being arrested and our family becoming homeless. Since then, my family has struggled with drug problems, homelessness, assaults, malnourishment, emotional and physical trauma, and many other challenges. I still have PTSD and emotional scars from my upbringing.
Early in life I struggled significantly with schooling because there were many basic needs that I never had met. I lived in unsafe environments due to financial instability. The constant threat of being harmed or becoming sick was scary because I didn’t have access to medical care. My untreated chronic health issues prevented me from focusing on schooling. Due to malnourishment and scoliosis, I was in chronic pain. I faced emotional abuse that impacted my ability to sleep. I frequently had strep throat and I never had access to antibiotics.
Once I had Apple Health Care (under the Affordable Care Act), I finally had access to antibiotics when I had strep throat. I have also been able to get braces and upper jaw surgery. I was able to start correcting these dental problems before one of my teeth cracked, which according to my dentist, would have lead to a root canal. I am seeing a physical therapist to address my chronic neck and back pain. I went the first twenty years of my life unaware of what I am allergic to until I finally had the support from Apple Health Care to go and see an allergist. For the first time in my life I finally know what I am allergic to and what I can do to address my severe allergies. When I was young, my eyes would swell shut and my throat would start to close due to exposure to unknown allergens. I am also regularly seeing a counselor in order to address the trauma I faced in my past so that I may move forward with my life. At age twenty-one, I am starting to feel secure enough about my health that I may focus on my future and education.
If I were to lose my access to Apple Health, I would need to find another source of income in order to pay for insurance and care. I have been financially supporting myself since the age of 18 and I am estranged from my parents, who do not have health insurance. My budget is tight between needing to pay for food, rent, utilities, and transportation. Needing to pay for medical care would leave me struggling to pay for college. In counseling, I am working through my past in order to try and make a brighter future for myself. Losing that sense of security would feel like I am back in the dysfunctionality of my family.
Due to the adversity I have faced, I am motivated to become a social psychologist so that I may teach youth who have or are currently facing adversity and homelessness many of the skills I have developed in my life to become more successful. I want to be in a position where I can help individuals who are facing adversity to pursue higher education and make a better life for themselves. I have moved to Seattle, I am the first of my family to be attending college, and I am working hard to overcome my past and to make a future for myself that is brighter than poverty, abuse, and homelessness. I currently give quarterly presentations at the UW Dream Project to teach mentors the skills they need to work with youth experiencing homelessness. I am motivated to alleviate many of the barriers that youth facing homelessness experience and to me and many others I know, medical care is one of the biggest. I am working my hardest to succeed and to make a living for myself and I have come to realize that much of this hinges on having access to health care. So please, don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The video below is an excerpt of Dakota speaking at the Congressional briefing, “Voices of Youth: Education, Resilience, Homelessness, and Hope.” The full briefing may be viewed here. More information about SchoolHouse Connection’s Youth Leadership and Scholarship program may be found here.