Today we’d like to introduce you to Aisha Sanders.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Aisha. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. My mother was a single mother of two and my father was a drug addict who was in and out of my life until the age of 10, then I didn’t talk to him again until I was 23 years old. Growing up in the inner city I was faced with many challenges but the hardest challenge I had was becoming a survivor of sexual abuse and rape. When I was 12 years old, I got pregnant by a 19 years old which resulted in me getting an abortion at 16 weeks. Instead of asking me was I okay or offering some type of comfort the adults in my life called me “grown” and “fast” and seemed more upset with me than the guy who took advantage of me. Years following my rape was a lot of highs and lows, I was forced into a lot of dangerous situations and I also created a lot of my own storms. I wanted nothing more than to rebel and forgot, which at the time was a lot easier than dealing with everything that had happened. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized a child can never be “too fast” for an adult who simply isn’t sexually interested in children. Even with this realization, I still felt empty, ashamed and defeated. I lived like this for many years, I would mask my feelings with laughter and overextending myself to others. Then I hit a bottom, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror without being disgusted.
One day I decided I didn’t want to live like that anymore so I started my journey to recovery. The first step for me was forgiveness, I had to forgive myself for believing my abuse was my fault. I also forgave the adults who I felt failed me and left me to deal with the aftermath alone. Although my pain birthed my purpose I knew I never wanted another little girl to experience what I experienced or to ever feel how I felt, so I started to research different ways I could help. The more research I did the more I felt uneasy just helping little girls without pouring into and protecting our boys. I sat on this for a while for various reasons, death of loved ones, family issues, fear of failure just to name a few. Then in 2017, I decided to move to Georgia, I packed my truck up and left everything and everybody I knew and loved. I was focused on creating my new life but the desire to give back continued to weigh heavily on my heart. I must have spent hundreds of hours on google and calling around to get assistance with starting my nonprofit to no avail. So once again, I put it on the back burner then around the end of last year I started praying and asking for guidance.
Six months later, I was submitting my 1023 form to the IRS hoping to gain my tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). On June 17th, one day before my 31st birthday I opened my mail and there was Teach to Reach’s approval letter from the IRS! My team and I had already started working on initiatives and programs but we really hit the ground running. Our first initiative was Adopt-a-Classroom. Three inner city Atlanta teachers were selected to receive classroom supplies and furniture for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. In addition to the supplies we will also provide their classes with two in class celebrations throughout the school year. We are currently working on creating a mentor and tutoring program, youth development and parent workshops all slated to begin the first quarter of 2020. If it wasn’t for the love and support of my family and friends both back in Cleveland and Georgia I honestly don’t know if Teach to Reach would even exist. With continued support we are planning to expand our services to Cleveland, Ohio next year.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth? Absolutely not! But every single tear shed, late night, early morning, internal breakdown are totally worth it. The most challenging part of forming Teach to Reach was finding a reputable and reasonably priced resource to assist me with properly completing all of my paperwork such as my Articles of Incorporation, By Laws and the 1023 Tax form. There were a lot of resources I couldn’t afford and then there were others who weren’t reputable at all. After many google searches, hours of reading reviews and searching the Better Business Bureau I found an agency that offered the services I needed within my budget. Since we are new to the nonprofit sector all of the fees associated with getting started has been paid out of pocket. Even with carefully planning and budgeting there seemed to always be an expense/fee that wasn’t accounted for. We are now working on applying for grants so things are definitely getting better.
Please tell us about Teach to Reach.
Teach to Reach is a non-profit organization that was created for some pretty awesome inner city youth (12-18 years of age). We promote education, respect and self- awareness by bridging the gap in neighborhoods, schools and homes through our mentoring program, tutoring program and youth development and parenting workshops. I believe representation matters, our kids matter. Our kids need to see more people who look like them, who come from similar upbringings and humble beginnings in ways that aren’t necessarily portrayed in the media. When I created this nonprofit it was never to put our kids at an advantage over other kids I just wanted to make the playing field even. You’d be surprised at the amazing things these kids can accomplish when they have the support, love, resources and tools to do the unthinkable. Our staff and volunteers are all committed to servicing our youth and providing them with opportunities that they may not have had and if an opportunity doesn’t exist, we all are more than willing to create them.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood is the personal interaction with friends and family. Just sitting on the front porch laughing and talking without any phone distractions. Living in a digital world often times takes away from having that real, genuine connection with people because we are too consumed with our phones and not missing anything that we aren’t always present and in the moment.
- Website: www.weteachwereach.org
- Phone: 770.502.5557
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: weteachwereach
- Twitter: weteachwereach