North Texas Daily

Youth 4 Change president turns tragedy into promise

Youth 4 Change president turns tragedy into promise

March 10
02:57 2016

Imani Pinckney | Contributing Writer


Former Sam Houston State University student and prospective UNT attendee Ronisa Rhodes, 20, is working to make a positive impact on her future university.

Before transferring, the Dallas native was studying communication studies and working at a law firm in Huntsville. But on Sept. 19, 2015, her world was changed.

At Sam Houston’s first football game of the semester, Rhodes had an epileptic seizure.

“I was born with seizures,” Rhodes said, “I have epilepsy, and I was told at the age of 6 that it had gone away.” 

The unexpected seizure changed her life. Rhodes said she was taken to the emergency room and found out she had broken bones in both of her ankles.

She was forced to move back to Dallas almost immediately to begin rehabilitation.

“I was placed in a wheelchair for about two and a half or three months,” Rhodes said. “I basically had to learn how to walk all over again. I’m still basically learning how to walk. I still walk a little slow, but it’s not as bad.”

Rhodes said she began walking again during Christmas time. Once she returned to the North Texas region, she decided to attend UNT because it was close to home.

“I like how there are so many people involved with communication,” Rhodes said. “I like the atmosphere.”

She took online classes during her rehabilitation and said she is still on track for graduation. Rhodes  will resume her studies as a communication studies major and sociology minor when summer classes begin at UNT but is already active on campus as founder and president of a new organization, Youth 4 Change.

The group started on Twitter about a month ago, when Rhodes tweeted that she wanted to go downtown with a group of friends to feed the homeless. She paired with nonprofit organization Kingdom at Work, operating under them as a community organization.

After collaborating with the nonprofit to create a chapter, Rhodes decided to make an organization that UNT students could contribute to.

“I have a passion to feed the homeless,” Rhodes said, “I’ve almost been homeless several times.”

Her most recent experience happened last year, after her seizure. She was still paying $450 a month for her Huntsville apartment at Sam Houston but had to find somewhere to live in Dallas. The apartment she found was $1,500 a month.

On top of everything, Rhodes was helping out her mom, who had recently lost her job.

The large financial responsibility was a lot for Rhodes, but she took out loans to help with rent and was able to keep a roof over her head.

Rhodes is not the only member of Youth 4 Change who has an understanding of the impact of homelessness.

Her tweet caught the attention of several Twitter users, including Toni Young, who is now the event coordinator of Youth 4 Change.

“My dream is to own my own homeless shelter,” Young said. “I’ve been homeless, and ever since then I’ve wanted to help the homeless.”

The organization will become official at the end of this spring semester, Rhodes said.

“We will have events feeding the homeless, going to shelters and talking to elders,” Rhodes said. “There will be a big bonding event at the end of the semester also.”

Youth 4 Change is joining forces with the UNT Natural Hair Group at 7 p.m. today in the Union Syndicate to host #Fun4Flint.

The lip-syncing and karaoke event will be a way for students to have fun while fundraising for the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Standup comedian Victor Pope Jr. tweeted that he will host the event.

Rhodes said both cash and cards will be accepted as forms of payment at the event, but said monetary donations are preferable to be able to help Flint citizens as quickly as possible. Donations will go into a GoFundMe for the cause.

“We wanted to have something fun for the people on campus,” Rhodes said. “Every single bit of those donations will be sent to Flint to help them with their water crisis.”

Aside from working on her new organization, Rhodes is also a poet.

“I don’t like to stay quiet,” Rhodes said, “I’ll be exposing some of my poetry, especially what I wrote while I was in the wheelchair.”

The prospective UNT student is currently enrolled in the Collin County Prosecutor Academy in Plano. She wants to go to law school and eventually become a judge in Washington, D.C.

“Stay strong—that’s the only thing you can do with those situations, because with epilepsy, it kind of takes over your life,” Rhodes said. “When you stay strong, there’s nothing else that can stop you.”

Featured Image: Courtesy 

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