Miraculously, Wanda (Terrell's mother) is the first to leave welfare. Living on the street and using alcohol and drugs from the age of 12 on, her transformation from seemingly hopeless addiction is astounding. As she tells her story, her words are chilling, heart-rending and compelling. Wanda had her first child at 15, and five more after that. All were cared for by their grandmother Dorothy. Wanda needed both treatment and advocates to help her address her substance abuse problem.
At Terrell's funeral, Wanda sobs and cries out inconsolably. Then, at Terrell's gravesite on what would have been his birthday in the third year after his death, Wanda tells us how hard it was to come to the cemetery. She bemoans that she "could have been a better parent" and wants to be a better person. This is, at last, her turning point. Four months later, she entered a substance abuse treatment program. She tells members of her treatment group: "I believe in this program. You've got to believe in yourself. It's working for me."
Her graduation from the treatment program at Haymarket is very different from Nickcole's graduation from high school. Wanda celebrates without her family which isn' t ready to believe she can be free from drugs. But, she enjoys a new closeness to those who completed the program with her. Her voice resonates from the podium: "I am a grateful recovering alcoholic and addict...[and] I know who Wanda is today."
Nine months after her treatment ends, Wanda is still clean. For the first time in her life, she is working full time, doing maintenance at the housing project. "I feel important now." She begins to learn how to be a mother to her children. Finally, at age 34, Wanda moves into her first real apartment. It is the first time that she has lived alone with her children. She tells how she relies on her connection to God and finds faith in prayer; and that she struggles every day, but she is not going back to drugs.