Yvonne Harvey-Williams at Suffield Academy
Yvonne Harvey-Williams was Suffield's Academy guest speaker at chapel on Monday, February 18. Her gripping remarks earned her a standing ovation from Suffield's students and faculty.
Born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, Yvonne was exposed to poverty, drugs, alcohol, and abuse at a very early age. Her mother, who was 14 and illiterate when Yvonne was born, couldn't support her daughter financially or emotionally. As a result, Yvonne's hopes of going to school and becoming a doctor were crushed when she found herself homeless by the time she reached the 8th grade.
She told the Suffield community, "Negativity became so common in my life, I thought it was okay."
By the time Yvonne turned 16, she was pregnant and in an abusive relationship. She gave birth to a son who, as a child, suffered multiple learning disabilities and almost died after being hit by a truck. The pain in Yvonne's life was constant...yet she never gave up. Years later, when her son questioned his ability to succeed in school, Yvonne pointed out the fact that he'd already defied statistics on so many levels. He was 17 years old, still in school, living at home, and not living in poverty. And when her son's grades started to decline, she pushed him even harder. She sums up her tenacity as a loving mother by explaining, "I'm a thug in recovery. That's why I wear silver stilettos."
Yvonne's message to the Suffield community was not only about resilience and compassion, it was about getting through one of the toughest periods in life: adolescence. As Yvonne describes it, the teen years are filled with emotional and "psychological warfare" yet they are also the years that teach us just how strong we are and how much resilience we have inside us. She ended her presentation with these inspiring words, "Shine despite what others may think about you. If they don't like it, tell them to put their shades on. I'll see you at the top."