Serdaria Bouknight is a college graduate, a homeowner, a mother and a role model. While at first blush that may not sound so unusual, what makes her life special are the obstacles she has overcome to become who she is today.
|Serdaria Bouknight stands in front of the home she purchased because of her involvement in the Columbia Housing Authority's Family Self-Sufficiency Program. "Find faith and keep it," Serdaria advises others. "Have patience because life is not always fair or easy."|
Born to heroin addicts, Serdaria and her brother lived with their parents until she was 12, at which time her mother sent them off to live with an aunt. Although her mother's intentions were good, her aunt's home wasn't much better.
"Things were bad at my aunt's house," said Serdaria. "It was overcrowded, I was depressed and I missed my mom."
As a result, the young woman spent little time there, choosing instead to stay with friends and in shelters.
It was at the shelter that she first heard about affordable housing through the Columbia Housing Authority. A few weeks before turning 18, Serdaria applied for housing with the CHA and soon had an apartment.
Five years later, though, life was still difficult for Serdaria and her own kids because she lacked the skills to move up from her job as a housekeeper to one that paid better.
Fate intervened in January, 1999, when she learned of CHA's Family Self-Sufficiency program, signed-up and set goals to learn computer skills, earn a bachelors degree and buy a home. With the help of her case manager, Serdaria enrolled in CHA's computer training and life skills classes. She also completed homeownership training classes and began saving money through the FSS Escrow Account Program.
In May, 2002, she graduated from Columbia College with a bachelors degree in social work, and this past May, she bought a home.
Her story, however, is not yet complete.
Serdaria's now helping others who are living as she once did. In addition to working as an office manager at a housing concern, she's earning a masters degree in human resources and business management, and after she completes that degree, she intends to begin a Ph.D. program. And if life wasn't keeping her busy enough, she volunteers as a small group facilitator at Prevent Child Abuse.
She's also excited about her impact on her kids, Cedric, 10, and Natalya, 5.
"It makes me feel good to know that I can expose my kids to so much more in life," she said. "I want to show them that there's more to life than the streets."
"I am so grateful and so blessed," said continued. "If I hadn't faced all that I did, I would have missed out on the many blessings I have today."
Her mother's now a positive influence, too. "She's encouraged me to live my own life and to raise my children and to not become a dependent on her disease. If she hadn't given me up, I probably wouldn't be here today."