GLORIA GRACE COPE
"I am invisible. You cannot see me. I am the ever-present. You cannot hide me. But that’s not your fault. I won’t let you see me. If you truly knew who I was and where I came from, would you treat me the same? In 2001, my mother, an illegal Mexican immigrant, gave birth to me at age seventeen in Santa Barbara. I grew up neglected, cast aside, and abused emotionally, physically, and sexually. Hurt, shame, and fear seemed my only companions. I knew something was wrong, but I was too scared to ask for help. Every hit, push, shove, and throw I received as a child made me draw further and further within myself. I was hurt so deeply, I stopped hurting at all. I became immune to the pain. I didn’t let it touch me, or beat me, or change me. In late 2006, I was placed in the foster care system. I was separated from the only good thing in my life, my brothers. With every transition between homes, I felt more and more unloved, unwanted, and useless. All of this changed when I was sent to Royal Family Kids’ Camp, a week-long summer camp for children from backgrounds of abuse. They told me I was loved, they told me I was wanted, and they told me that God had a plan for my life. They helped me look at my situation from a different point of view, a viewpoint that would completely change my life.
I’m not the only one. 3.2 million kids in America alone are abused each year. 1 in 9 girls are sexually abused. 420,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Only 3 percent of these youth will ever graduate college. The statistics are against me. I am 16 years old. I am graduating from high school with a perfect GPA and college units already completed. I plan to get my Master’s Degree and become a college professor. Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t perfect, and it’s not easy. I still struggle to let myself feel emotions, much less express them. I work very hard to please others, to measure up to others standards. I’m afraid people won’t accept me. I feel ashamed of what has happened to me. But I have been remarkably blessed. I was adopted at twelve years old by an amazing family. I am now a sister to eight amazing individuals, six of which were rescued from predicaments similar to my own. I love to serve people with the talents I’ve been given. Royal Family Kids’ Camp provided a loving and uplifting environment for me when things seemed hopeless. I deeply admire what this camp does for children and I am proud to say that I volunteer during the summer to help show campers the same blessings I received as a child. Everyone deserves love. Everyone deserves a second chance. My past does not define me. I have overcome it and will continue to overcome my fears and struggles. I believe that with God anything is possible. With the Lord’s constant guidance and with the help of the amazing people He has placed in my life, I can achieve the extraordinary."