Ezraa always knew she would go to college and become a psychologist. After all, both her parents had successful careers, and they expected her to follow in their professional footsteps.
Despite entering foster care at 15 and giving birth to a son at 18, Ezraa managed to graduate from high school and start her freshman year at a university. However, her dreams of higher education were put on hold when she was forced to drop out after fleeing an abusive relationship with her son’s father.
Thanks to a referral from her social worker, Ezraa and then two-month-old Jaden moved into HopeWell’s residential home for teenage mothers and their children in Newburyport. She planned on staying there only a few months, but that turned into three years.
At first, she focused on getting a job, but HopeWell staff encouraged her to return to school.
“They pushed me out the door,” she says. “They said, ‘You can do it. Go.’”
She enrolled in Northern Essex Community College, where she received an associate’s degree in early childhood education – a “huge accomplishment” that boosted her confidence. She worked as a teacher at Jaden’s daycare center and then went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Endicott College, where she participated in a parenting program that allowed her to live on campus with Jaden.
“They are my pseudo-parents, my emotional support,” says Ezraa of HopeWell’s staff, recalling how they hung up her Dean’s List letter on the house refrigerator. “They celebrated my achievements.”
Ezraa, who now lives with Jaden in Braintree, hasn’t stopped pursuing her education. She is a graduate student at Williams James College in Newton, studying clinical mental health with a specialization in forensics. She plans on applying to the school’s psychology doctorate program and wants to focus her research on childhood trauma. Her ultimate goal is to open up her own agency that will provide a variety of services for children who have experienced trauma, all under one roof.
She says HopeWell staff played a big role in her success: “They are my role models.”