Her past inspires futures of others
• Teen author taking a turn as motivational speaker in HISD
Houston teen author Brandalyn Gill said she uses her past experiences as a boost to help her motivate others.
The author of My Life, the official book of the This is My Life Youth Development Program was homeschooled and graduated at only 15. She also became a self-published author of
My Life, a book she began writing at age 10, a book inspired by her tumultuous upbringing.
“I started writing my book when I was 10 years old — despite being abandoned by my mother, and having a veteran father who admitted to me that he was emotionally unprepared to accommodate me.”
Gill began doing free motivational speaking in HISD as a part of the national No Bullying Campaign, which was sparked by the Jamey Rodemeyer incident. Rodemeyer, 14, of Buffalo, N.Y., committed suicide after being bullied over his gay activism.
Gill speaks strongly about the effects bullying can have on a person and stresses the importance of getting an education and setting goals.
She was contacted by HISD Superintendent Terry Grier in a call-to-action letter that was sent out to HISD community administrators, ministerial groups and community relations groups. The letter was a list of statistics about the performance of the HISD community. It focused on the 50,000 African-american students’ reading and writing achievement gap as well as math performance on the TAKS and TAAS.
Gill is currently working alongside Grier to raise awareness about the alarming numbers of AfricanAmerican and other minority students in elementary and middle schools who cannot read and write.
Statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund say that 87 percent of AfricanAmerican students nationwide cannot read up to grade-level standards by eighth grade; 84 percent by 12th grade. Grier said 14.4 percent of students drop out of school by their senior year.
“That’s when my gears shifted, from not just being a student, not just being a speaker or an author, but becoming a change for them,” Gill said. “Especially after receiving that document. I kind of had to turn around and say ‘hold on, we have to go in this direction too’.”
Not only are these percentages extremely high, there is also very little being done about them.
“One of the main things my father enforced was being prepared,” Gill said. “If you can’t read and you can’t write, you won’t be prepared. Teach your children and teach everyone else around you. I started reading early, and to see students who cannot write and are not prepared – to be going out into society and being illiterate. There’s no excuse. ”
Thus, the “This is My Life” program was created. The purpose of this program is to give students who are in need of help the opportunity to learn by example. To give them the opportunity to realize how much there is to learn and make plans for their futures as well as begin on their own journey to reaching their dreams.
HISD Board President Paula Harris said “No Place for Hate” is a district-wide program with the purpose of changing the culture of acceptance. Gill adds to it by coming out to motivate students. So far, Gill has toured three different schools.
‘A role model’
According to Harris, “Gill has been diplomatic and she has been a role model.”
Currently, the “This is My Life” program is focused on helping 20 schools that were chosen based on neighborhood need.
“We picked schools like Cullen, Welch, Fondren, Yates and Worthing because they are having problems that students at Bellaire and Lamar aren’t having,” Gill said. “I focus on the African-american perspective because it’s the worst, it is the most frightening and it is the most criminal.”
A starting point to the
to help these students is palpable
Gill book, My Life, has served as a platform for the This is My Life program. The program focuses on encouraging one another instead of bullying. The goal is to be able to offer them the opportunity of publishing their own narratives as a symbol of accomplishment.
“Before the book was sold out, the students would start posting poems and stories that they had read,” Gill said with a smile. “I’m hoping that in addition to being excited about reading they will be excited about writing their own and culminating a dream of their own so that everything will come into fruition.
“I am passionate about this initiative because when I leave and they have that example, they want it”, Gill said. “They want the book, they want the program and they want this change because they know they have it.”
To volunteer, make a donation or for further information, call 281-546-8168 or link to Gill’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/ groups/ my life my dreams.
“At this point I am pleading to work with anyone who has the desire and cares primarily for those students who are having the worst problems,” Gill said. “I stress that it’s not just in HISD, it’s national numbers. It’s all over the country. It’s an epidemic that needs to be addressed. Most importantly, we need support here in Houston before we can reach out anywhere else.” program is trying to raise awareness to people about the severity of these mind-boggling statistics. Being a successful young AfricanAmerican woman herself, it is much easier for the students to serve as a sort of incentive to their own hopes and dreams.
“When I go to the schools and talk to the students they see a young girl dressed in jeans and a T-shirt,” Gill said with a smile. “Some of them wonder what a girl my age can tell them that they don’t already know, and I tell them ‘I’m one of you and I want to share something with you’.”
Gill’s dedication and passion for this program is evident as you listen to her speak. The deep connection she has toward trying
INSPIRATION: Teen author Brandalyn Gill says there is “no excuse” for the comparatively high illiteracy rate among minority high school students.