KAPOLEI (KHNL) - In this tough economic time, here's a story of inspiration. A woman who took her life from the streets to success- and with four children in tow! Here's how she did it.
This typical family scene is anything but typical for the Awana family. Mom Michelena has a roof over her head now, but she doesn't take that for granted. Just 10 years ago, she was on the streets after her ice-addicted husband left them.
"I had to change our life. I couldn't go down that road. We were losing everything. Our bills weren't getting paid. We were being evicted from our house. I said, 'You can't come home unless you decide to stop using drugs. And he never came back." Tears welled up in her eyes as she recounted the pain.
Michelena was stunned. "I had garage sales, sold our things. I thought I was going to move to the mainland but I couldn't physically get on the plane and take all my kids over there myself. I didn't have any support."
She checked into a homeless shelter in Waimanalo. "It was emotionally, mentally, physically draining on me. Not to mention my children."
She went through the shelter's programs, got on welfare, and took a job cleaning houses. And then, she went back to school. "I didn't want to be that person that just gave up. We see too many homeless people on the streets and we see their children and what they go through. Through the eyes of my kids, wanting something good for them."
All the while grieving for a dream that died. "I love the man that I married, but the drugs changed him. That was the hardest part: giving up the dream that you had and moving on." She sobbed as she recounts this.
She got her high school diploma, and then enrolled at Windward Community College! "Next semester will be my last semester and I'll complete my associate of arts degree."
Hard times are hopefully behind them now. "She really works hard and things are really good for everybody. Everybody gets a lot of opportunities to do what they want now," smiled daughter Sarah.
Michelena said, "It's a wonderful feeling. It is a lot of hard work and effort, but with a lot of wonderful rewards."
Michelena said she did it all for her kids. "I love them with all my heart. I'd do anything for them. It's through them that really gave me the inner strength."
She hopes her struggle- and her success- inspires even one person. "Even though life hands you the worst condition it's up to us to change them. Whatever your dreams were in the past, you can make new ones. And you'll be OK."
After she gets her AA degree, Michelena plans to enroll at UH Manoa to get a degree in psychology. She wants to get a doctorate in that field and become a psychologist, because she said she wants to give back to society.
Awana still cleans part time to earn money while going to college. You can call her at (808) 861-6281.