‘I can still be a mom’

Amarillo mother credits Family Place for opportunity


By Elizabeth Schiller as told to Chelsea Quackenbush
Photography by Chelsea Quackenbush


I was 30 years old the day I stepped foot on a college campus to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. I was scared and felt like running. But I knew with support from Buckner, I could do it.

I tried to go to school when my girls were younger. I graduated a year early from high school, so I felt like I should’ve been able to do this. But I got married at 18, was pregnant with Autumn at 19 and had Parys when I was 21. It wasn’t good. I didn’t have the greatest family. I have three brothers and a sister, and my mom was single.

I had Autumn in January of 2003 and I started class in August of 2003. I was so scared. I couldn’t even go into Walmart by myself and go grocery shopping, it freaked me out so bad. So I couldn’t go to campus and go to class; it had to be all online classes.

I got most of my basics and then I took as many psychology and sociology classes as I could because I enjoyed those. And I was just too scared to take my math and sciences. So I ran out of courses to take and I just didn’t finish.

Along the way, my husband was not supportive. He said it was taking too much time away from the family but I really think he was jealous and he didn’t want me to advance. I think all along we both knew we shouldn’t have gotten married. And if I had a way to get out, I would’ve left sooner. (She divorced her husband in 2012). So in a way, it was me keeping myself there and him keeping me there, too.

I don’t know where the fear came from, especially now because I talk to everyone. My brothers were pretty abusive and my sister is kind of a jerk. And you know, you marry what you’re used to. My mom was kind of similar to my husband, where they keep you in a little box that was comfortable for them. I don’t think either of them did it knowingly but they’re just more comfortable when you’re the person they expect you to be.

I didn’t have much experience with the world. I was scared. I didn’t have confidence; I didn’t know how to talk to people. And I was told that I wasn’t able to do it. And then, my poor mother, she never did anything. That’s part of the reason I’m at Buckner. As much as I didn’t want help from anybody, my mother refused help and we suffered for it a lot. She had five kids. She refused help because of her pride and we paid the price for it. I refuse to do that to my children. I will take every opportunity that is offered me to help my girls, no matter how embarrassing it is.

I came to Buckner Family Place in April 2012. I heard about it through a friend of a friend who had been in the program. I was really hesitant at first because I didn’t want any help. But after I saw how well she was doing, I applied in March, had my interview in April and (Buckner Family Place director) Dianne Santiago gave me my apartment the same day.

It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. And it was solely my decision.

Before Buckner, I really didn’t have a path. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to school. I would be living in government housing, with little chance of ever finding a way out. It definitely pushes you toward failure if you don’t have someone like Buckner to say, “you can do this by yourself. If you choose to be with someone else, that’s your decision. But otherwise you can take care of it on your own.” It’s empowering.

Because of Dianne, I had the courage to go to school. I was scared to death. I’m 30 years old – do you think I want to go to school with 19-year-olds? No, I don’t. But she made me feel like I could actually do it. I could come back in another 10 years and my life would be completely different. And that I could give back. I really like the platform that Buckner offers to single moms. I just think it’s fantastic.

And not just single moms but families in general. They offer support to the family, which I think is really important. And despite what people think, I don’t think there’s a lot of support for families in trouble or need. There are food stamps or monetary support or housing subsidies but there are not very many organizations out there that tell you, “you can do it,” and help you get to that point on your own. I don’t think I’ll be reliant or dependent on anything at the end of this. I will be able to do it myself. And it’s amazing.

I talk to my girls about Buckner and how the reason I have self-confidence now is because of this place. Because I don’t feel like I’m being taken care of; I’m taking care of myself. It’s a huge difference. Buckner expects so much more from you.

I feel a strong urge to give them a helper’s heart as well. I want them to grow up not feeling entitled to anything but to feel entitled to help other people, and that they want to do that and they feel the need to do that.

Like last night, when I lost my wallet, I was explaining to them what was in the wallet and why it was important. They thought it was funny at first. So they went to their room and were watching a movie, and they came back out and they had gotten all their money from their piggy bank and they gave it to me. It made me cry. I told them to take their money back. But that’s what I want. I want them to know that not only can you help yourself but you really need to do something to help other people as well. That’s what we’re here for, in my opinion. A lot of people just want to take. There’s more of a drive to help other people.

The reason I want to go into social work is mostly because of Buckner. I want to be able to help people in similar situations. I feel like there’s a gap between people in terrible situations and people in normal situations. I felt like I was in the middle, like I was expected to just get a job, to work and support my kids. But I always wanted to go to school and the opportunity wasn’t there. I think there’s a gap area that could be filled that I could advocate for.

We are just as poor as everybody else. We’re just as lost. But more is expected of us. We’re expected to be middle class and doing better. I’ve owned a home, I’ve had cars. I’ve been able to go to school. Because of those opportunities, I feel pressure that I should be in a different situation than I am now.

Without Buckner, I didn’t have the support to do it. There’s no way I could have paid $700 to $800 in rent, made a car payment, gone to school full time and worked. I was expected to either completely fail or work 80 to 90 hours a week and sacrifice everything to support the girls. And I don’t feel like that’s being a good mom. I want more for them.

If I was able to completely do it on my own, it would’ve been done by now. If I had the confidence and the support, it would’ve been done by now. Buckner is there and I’m going to it and do whatever I can.

Buckner provided a way for me to go to school, get my education and to still be a mom. And that’s a huge deal because most of us don’t get that opportunity.

You can be a partner in the ministry of Buckner Family Place! When you donate, your support will help single parents like Elizabeth as they work toward getting an education and achieving self-sufficiency. (Feel free to designate your gift by writing in the comments box on the online donation form.) You can also contact Buckner Foundation to learn about more ways to give by calling 214-758-8000.

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