Patterson Emesibe

Patterson Emesibe

Today, I want to thank you with the support you have given this University to support students especially those with a traumatic background and foster care involvement like mine.

Hello, my name is Patterson Emesibe. My parents are immigrants from Nigeria. I am the oldest of 5 kids who were born and raised in Antioch, Tennessee. As a child, I grew up with dreams of being a lawyer, doctor or engineer. This dream was inspired by my parents, who knew this was only possible if they immigrated to the states to start a family, which they did.

When I was 11 years old my parents were separated, filing for divorce and the judge granted my mom custody of the kids. My maternal grandmother moved from California to Tennessee to assist my mom in taking my siblings and I to school, with cooking and other tasks. On the night of August 4th my grandmother brought me to my mother’s room, and she was crying. She told me that “Patterson, you’re the oldest and the man of the house. I want to let you know that we are moving to California to start over and because you are the man of the house, you need to take care of your siblings and make sure you all stay together”. I agreed with her, I cried and gave her a hug. I went to bed that night with this new responsibility of being the man of the house.

The next morning around 2am, I woke up to the piercing sound of the burglar alarm. Sounds of banging and crashing followed and when these sounds stopped I left my room. As I came out of my room, I saw my mother’s lifeless body at the bottom of the steps. Time stopped until I saw my dad come around the corner and put a blanket over her and told me “go back to your room” which I did. I frantically tried to wake up my brothers saying “Galvin, Melvin, dad just killed mom” and their response was “Go back to sleep Pat, you’re having a nightmare”. Then more sounds of banging and crashing followed, and I attempted to wake up my brothers saying “Wake up, I think dad is killing grandma”.

I remember the social worker wanted to place my siblings and I in different homes. I told the social worker “If you separate me from any of my siblings, I will tell them all to act up until we are all in a home together” because the last thing my mother told me was “you’re the man, make sure you all stay together”. My five siblings and I were hurled into foster care (together) by state social workers to find us permanency. Being so young with the feelings of uncertainty for my siblings and myself was like living in a nightmare. Foster care felt like an everyday fight for autonomy, safety and control. My youngest sibling always seemed to be one step away from being adopted and separated from her family. Eventually, we were placed with my maternal aunt and we started to experience a sense of stability.

Finding motivation after experiencing trauma was hard for me. Before foster care I was a straight A student, I loved showing my parents my report card for validation. Without a mother, and a father serving two life sentences, I felt lost in school. The dreams my parents had for me died that day, August 5, 2002. By December of that year, we were placed in our fourth foster home, which was in California with my maternal aunt.

From the age of twelve to eighteen, I was the oldest, the man of the house, the father of my four siblings, and I constantly tried to run away from this responsibility. This responsibility to me meant that I couldn’t expect anything from my sibling that I wasn’t willing to do myself. Though school was the main focus, I struggled in both high school and college. I went to Cal State Monterey Bay, taking me six years to get a four-year degree in psychology. That whole time I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after I graduated.

Before graduating college, I started to volunteer with a foster youth advocacy group to create systems change for foster youth across the state of California. Four months after I graduated, I became a cofounder of a non-profit called the Epicenter, based in Salinas California. The Epicenter is a youth led and youth ran center that supports youth from at-risk environments, assisting them to reach their dreams while addressing the barriers in their life that prevent them. Advocacy gave me a space to cope with what had happened to me in the past but under my radar this work fostered a passion for the community.

Looking to the future, I am in a Graduate Social Work program at CSU Monterey Bay. My new dream is to be a social entrepreneur who blends social work, community organizing and business for social change. I believe, when communities work through their trauma and identify what they need, they are able to create systems that can adequately support their ability to flourish and thrive. I experienced this when starting the Epicenter, making sure it was community led and ran. For me, this is my gift and purpose I want to give back to the world.

Today, I am thinking about the next time I walk the graduation stage. On that day, I will be thankful for all the support you have given me through giving to CSU Monterey Bay. Your gift has helped me pay for school because I have no family support, pay for books that I couldn’t afford because I am not working while in school, and will make sure that I am not homeless again (I was homeless the first semester of grad school). If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.