Hi! My name is Allyson Hale, but my friends call me Wonderland.
Imagine you are 14 years old being raised by an alcoholic and drug addicted mother who suffers from depression. Imagine spending a night on a wild goose chase with your brother and friend as your mother is high and convinced her boyfriend i s hacking her phone and is a criminal mastermind. Convinced that her friend is trying to send her messages and hallucinating by pulling out papers and writing strange message s until the wee hours of the morning. This was my reality. I can remember a few months later after that incident, my mother leaving my brothers and me after a welfare check from the Aurora Police Department. She packed a bag and drove off with her boyfriend. Leaving me chasing after her barefoot in the snow, unable to stop her. This was my reality. You see a s a child, I quickly had to become an adult.
A few years later my high school was hosting their usual club fair, which had a booth for the STARS Mentoring Program. I was initially interested in the candy on the table, but I ended up picking up the application because I have always loved help ng and working with people. You see, I was broken myself, but helping others made me feel good about myself and I was able to learn how to cope and to help myself by helping others. Being a mentor taught me a new level of responsibility, but it also allowed me to be a k id again. I could have endless amounts of fun while still being able to build relationships an d hold a position of leadership. Through my experience with STARS, I have been able to build relationships that I know will last a lifetime. One of these relationships is with a girl name d Selena. She is one who is quick to anger and throw a punch, but, as the year went on, she would come to me and talk to me when she was angry. She could confide in me and she became my side kick; I even have a little paper that she wrote saying so.
Being a Mentor and being a part of the STARS National Conference has helped me be comfortable with who I am. I have learned that my pain doesn't define me. I am not just a drug addict’s daughter. I am not just an outcast. I am not a woman with anxiety and who is depressed. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am a leader. STARS has helped me solidify my love for myself and has helped me learn that I don't have to be perfect. This is a program that I could talk all day about, but I know y ou all have places to be.
Given the chance I would do it all again. FRIENDS FIRST is giving teens a safe space to be kids and build relationships. The staff here truly cares and I hope with your support that the program can continue to grow to help more youth within the comm unity.