Freshman James Christian: Totally Transformed
“I wasn’t always the person I am now,” says freshman music major James Christian from Bessemer, Alabama. James is not referring to his last name, which he changed just weeks before arriving at Stillman. He is speaking of a total life transformation, and he hopes that telling his story will help others.
Although James is now cheerful and outgoing, he was an angry child. A family member abused him and his siblings, and he was placed in foster care about six years ago. He admits that he was often the stereotypical “disrespectful foster kid” who didn’t like rules. But his foster mother’s love was the beginning of the transformation that he says changed him into “a great kid.”
When James was in the tenth grade, he found out that the family member who abused him had cancer. “When she knew she was going to die, she asked us to talk to her about what she did wrong to us. It was her way of apologizing. Later, my dad called me and said she passed away,” he said. Having closure helped James to forgive, mature, and think more about how he wanted to live.
“Although it sounds unrealistic, I want to be an actor. I’m the second from the oldest in my family, and I want my younger siblings to know that you can follow your dreams,” said James. “Last spring, I went to a restaurant in Birmingham with my foster mom. I was tired when we left, and I fell asleep in the car. Suddenly the car stopped and she said, ‘Okay. This is your opportunity. What are you going to tell the people?’ She had taken me to a theatre to audition to be an extra in a movie about Jackie Robinson called 42.”
James was offered a small role. A few days later, he was called back for a costume fitting. “It was so surreal,” he laughs. “By being an actor, I hope to give foster kids and my siblings someone they can look up to who has been in their shoes.”
“I’m not like some of the friends I’ve met at Stillman who had straight A’s, and came here on full scholarships. I was not the top of my class. I was an average student. My parents never finished high school. Having family problems and ending up in foster care made things difficult. I knew I needed to go to college if I wanted to be successful, but I didn’t know how I could afford to,” James says. “ My foster mom has three other foster kids and she sends money to one of my brothers, so it would have been hard for her to pay full tuition.”
When James was offered a music scholarship, he was “ecstatic.” But that was only the beginning of the great news. “My foster mom had been trying to adopt me for five years,” James said. She finally succeeded, and they went to court to change his last name to Christian a few weeks before James arrived at Stillman. “We had been trying for so long, so it was really emotional when it finally happened.”
James likes to sing a song that says, “There’s a praise on the inside that I can’t keep to myself.” He hopes that sharing his story will change lives. “I want to show others that if you take in a kid and put in him the same love you put in your own kids, you can get this,” he says, pointing at himself. “I’ve changed so much.”
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