Marisa Hafley, Impact100 Vice-Chair
Awarding First Step Inc. a gift of $81,000 means more to me than effecting change in my community. Don’t misunderstand, one of the many reasons I choose to be a member of Impact each year is for just that – making a relevant change in my community. However, this year’s grant gift to First Step Inc. really resonates with me all because of someone I know – Larry.
Larry is a former high school student of mine. In the 2011-2012 school year, I had Larry in my English III class. A typical day for Larry in my class was to saunter in, take a seat in the back, and put his head down on his desk, only to be lifted when the bell to end class rang. And that was a typical day when he was at school, but often he was not. At first, I tried to build a relationship with Larry to help him engage in learning but failed. I tried to call and contact home but received no answer. I tried to figure out who his friends were, so I could connect with Larry through them. I was not successful in that endeavor either, and Larry was not successful in school. Around the end of the first semester, I am ashamed to say I gave up on Larry.
Little did I know, I was going to get one more chance with Larry…In December 2011, I attended a fundraiser for a non-profit providing services in connection to domestic violence in Tarrant County. During this fundraiser, a victim of domestic violence spoke about her experience and how this non-profit organization saved her life. I was so moved by her account. And then I saw Larry. My heart sank! Larry, her son, was also a victim of domestic violence, and he so bravely described his story this evening too. Through his tears, he explained the nightmares he and his mom survived. Listening to him, I kept thinking ‘it all makes sense now – his behavior, attitude, etc’… And I kept thinking ‘how did I not know?!’ I finally understood Larry that night, and I understood on a personal level the impact a non-profit has. When I later saw Larry at school, something was different about him, different in a positive way. Larry was much more engaged in school, and I’m proud to say he graduated the next year.
I think about Larry from time to time, and this last June when First Step Inc. was named our 2021 grant recipient, I very fondly thought of Larry.