This piece was first published by Untold Athletes.
When you are born in a place like Haiti, life is much different than most American kids' experiences. I have many brothers and sisters, and we were about as poor as you could ever imagine being. My biological parents couldn’t really take care of all of us, so my brother Emmanuel ended up having to take care of me and he did the best he could. My parents either gave me away or I just happened to get lost in the street with Emmanuel, and I don’t remember exactly how, but I became a child slave. I was too young at the time to really understand that what was happening to me was wrong. All I knew was that I was going through starvation, homelessness, and extreme poverty, including sicknesses of tuberculosis, measles, and typhus. I also dealt with disabilities like ADHD, PTSD, and hearing loss.
The restavek system is modern day slavery. Children are put there to work without pay for random strangers, or even for other families, all while getting mistreated. I ended up getting captured by human traffickers and became a kitchen slave. A white woman who was the missionary happened to walk by and purchased me for 60 bucks out of the slave market. On my left arm, I have a burn that is a brand that will forever mark the name of the slave owner. The people at the slave market ended up burning it after the missionary rescued me. She ended up taking me to Lambs of St. Michael orphanage.
My adoptive parents found me on some adoption website. They wanted to adopt internationally, so they looked at other countries. They ended up picking Haiti and found me. The process of working with the orphanage to adopt me was a slow process. The Mastropaolos, who are my adoptive family, were going to go down to Haiti to try to pick me up, but that same missionary ended up taking care of me by flying me to Miami, Florida to see my adoptive parents.
My adoptive family are really big fans of football. Sports would always be on when we watched TV, or we would go to games. I ended up trying many sports like soccer, wrestling, and basketball, but football was the sport I really enjoyed. My football journey started in 5th grade. On the last play of the game, my dad called a play for me where I ended up scoring to win the game. This all made me want to work harder. I also began to use football as a way of learning life lessons.
My goal has always been to play at the highest level of football, which also means being a positive influence to those looking up to me.
Sports have shaped me to become an open-minded person. Before I attended Gallaudet University, I was at an all-white high school that did not really have minorities, LGBTQ, international people, or hard of hearing and deaf people. The advice I would have given my younger self would be to survive and thrive.
My adoptive family has played a big role in helping me grow my platform and to get myself out there to colleges when others doubted me. My trainer, Eric Jordan, also has been a mentor to me to make sure I was on the right path. My adoptive family, my supporters, and my motivation has helped me reach the college level.