This Sunday, The News-Gazette will run an article I've written about a Champaign teenager named Asilah Patterson.
As you'll read, Asilah's grown up with many challenges, including personally witnesses the effects drug addiction can have on one's family. She refuses to use her past as a crutch or an excuse. She wants to do something great with her life; she wants to become a role model for other kids who've seen a lot of hurt in their lives.
I've spent more than a month talking with, calling and texting Asilah. I went to church with her one Sunday. Attending is one of her passions.
I think most people expect journalists to stay unbiased and objective when pursuing a story. After getting to know Asilah, I found objectivity impossible. She's friendly, hard-working and has this incredible ability to work her way into the hearts of people who want to help her succeed. She touches them; she's touched me.
Now, behind every arrest report I read in the paper or criminal-chase show on TV, I see the family behind that person, the ones you don't hear about whose lives are undoubtedly affected. She's opened my eyes as much as the United Way's poverty simulation, or perhaps more.
Through death and addiction, Asilah has this ability to turn hardships into stepping stones. She's determined to make it.
I have faith she will.