My name is Tobhiyah Holmes and I am a Hanna Boy.
I was born and raised here in the California Bay Area. Though I come from a big family, my mother was the person who was really raising me. Looking back, I can see that life was difficult for my mother, raising me by herself. However, as a child I felt happy and loved. My mother always wanted to give me the best and it truly was the strongest motivating factor in her life.
As I came into my teenage years, she moved to us out of our low-income neighborhood in the East Bay to an affluent community in Marin. We were both excited about the possibilities ahead. At this same time I was starting to change from child to teen. It’s a time of change and difficult for every child. Unfortunately for me, the natural changes within, added to by the real changes in my environment, were too much for me to handle. I was trying to become a man and looking for my place in the world. This difficult time in my life was made all the harder by the brand new environment that was alien to me. I was confused by the behaviors and expectations of my new community. I was too young to understand that my new community was a completely different culture than my last. It was difficult to make new friends and my teachers decided that I was lost cause, not worth their time or investment. I began to internalize their beliefs about me.
By the end of middle school I was already seeking out friends with equally low self-esteem and equally low expectations from life. I no longer believed I was capable of good grades so I quit trying in school. The friends I had glamorized delinquent behavior and I was happy to join them if it meant that I had a place to “belong.” When tobacco, drugs and alcohol were introduced I was immediately interested. Drug abuse quickly took me from childhood delinquent to completely self-centered and self-destructive teen.
I was disrespectful to the people around me because I didn’t respect myself.
My family brought me to Hanna Boys Center. I knew what I was doing was not working, but I didn’t know how to change. Hanna provided the structure and direction that I was missing. They placed high expectations on me and gave me the support and encouragement I needed to reach their expectations. I met other boys my age. Though our stories were different our experiences bound us together. I saw boys near graduation who had changed their lives and were getting the things I wanted in life. I saw Hanna alumni coming back to visit and talk with their old staff. They were happy and successful. I slowly realized that I had joined a more than just a boys home, I had joined another family.
Hanna Boys Center continued to show me the love and support just like my family. I started breaking bad habits.
When I left Hanna I was still a young adult with more lessons to learn. I had not yet discovered my path but I had changed my trajectory. I enrolled in Marin Community College and later transferred to UC Davis.
Hanna Boys Center continued to encourage and support me with a college scholarship.
Since college I have followed my educational goals into graduate school and my personal dreams of living and traveling the world. Hanna gave me the desire to help other as well. I spent a few years in China and a Peace Corps volunteer after college. Over the years since I left Hanna, I found that I was always drawn back.
I volunteered at Hanna as a college student, working with the younger boys. After my college years I made sure to visit every time I flew back to the United States. Most recently, I decided to build my professional career at Hanna Boys Center. I applied and was accepted to take the position of High School English teacher.
I love working with the next generation of Hanna Boys. I offer my experience as a former “at-risk” youth and a Hanna alumni. I hope to be a resource for young guys that want change their life, just as I changed mine.
I place high expectations on our boys because, like myself, I know they are able to find success with positive encouragement. Many Hanna boys have experienced more difficulties than the average boy their age. The fact that these boys are still here and willing to put their faith and trust in Hanna shows their resilience and inner strength. I feel honored to spend each day with these boys and I try to express it by giving to them what was given to me.
My name is Tobhiyah and I am a Hanna Boy. — Tobhiyah Holmes, English Teacher, Hanna Boys Center