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With help from Buckner Family Place, young mom ready for future

An interview with CBS 7’s Tatum Hubbard

Editor’s note: Odessa native Tatum Hubbard anchors the 6 and 10 o’clock news for CBS 7, serving Midland-Odessa and the Permian Basin. Tatum recently interviewed Buckner Family Place participant Kelsey Hernandez, 22, a single mother of two girls, to talk about Kelsey’s past, present and very bright future.

“Mommy, what are we doing?”
“We’re getting out of this place.”
“Where are we going?”
“Somewhere not full of disgrace.”
“Is Daddy coming?”
“No, he won’t be.”
“What is he doing?”
“Letting his family leave.”
“Does he still love us?”
“He’ll always love you.”
“Why isn’t he coming after us?”
“He has other things to do.”
“But he says we were his whole world.”
“Yes, Baby, I know. He says we were more precious than gold.”
“Yes, that will always be so.”
“So what will happen now?”
“A new life: Here we go.”
--“Mommy” by Kelsey Hernandez

TATUM: How did you learn about Buckner Family Place?

KELSEY: While I was in nursing school a friend of mine – I knew she was a single mom – told me she was moving out of the dorms at the college and into a place called Buckner. She told me a little bit about it and the process and there might be a waiting list. I thought I’d give it a try and see.

TATUM: How long was the process before you finally were accepted?

KELSEY: It was fairly quick. The only thing that delayed it was me. I got scared. I told Anna (Family Place program director Anna Rodriquez) no. I was just terrified to live on my own, just me and my girls. I had never done that before.

TATUM: Before you were accepted, what was your living experience like?

KELSEY: Well, for many years we were with their dad, and then as things got worse we moved in with family and friends. It was always, here and there, wherever someone could fit us, and it just wasn’t our own. So it was hard.

TATUM: You referenced when things got bad. What did that look like?

KELSEY: It mainly was just constant arguing and fighting in front of the children; financial struggles. I was going to school, having to fight over financial means, groceries, paying bills and gas. It was hard to get him on board with what we needed to take care of first and then he could have his fun. It was always a constant struggle.

TATUM: Did you feel unsafe with the girls’ dad?

KELSEY: I did (with) the lifestyle he lived. Our apartment living wasn’t very sanitary. Just constant things around that I didn’t want my children to see, I didn’t want them to get a hold of. I’d clean and clean and do so much to make it so nice, and for it to just be dirty, have dirty things, dirty people and I just didn’t want that for my girls. They’re precious to me. I wanted them to have somewhere safe, somewhere where they called home, somewhere clean where it was just OK.

TATUM: How did your thoughts about your future and their future change when you had baby girls? We think differently about our futures when we have our own kids, right?

KELSEY: Yes. I was 15 when I first had Caden, and at that time, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Everything had just turned upside down. I dropped out of school. I always had goals. I wanted to go to college. That was me. That was what I was going to do. When I had this baby, now I’m like, “What am I going to do? I have to provide for her. I have to make sure she has everything she needs.” My needs were put on the back burner. Thankfully (the girls’ father) stayed around. We managed to make it here and there with help with family and friends, but it just wasn’t ever everything that I wanted. I always strived for more because I thought my daughter deserved to have the best. And I wanted us to have the best as a family together. My parents are divorced, so I wanted togetherness. But he was just there, doing the minimal that he could, and it was never together.

TATUM: I think it’s so important for people to know you were a driven and ambitious young girl. You had a baby, but you didn’t lose that drive. Talk to me a little bit about why it was important for you to go back to school.

KELSEY: I think what really motivated me was having her, because I wanted to show her. I didn’t want to feel like another teen mom that dropped out and was working minimum wage and never getting anywhere. I wanted to show my daughter that you can be anything you want to be and you’ve got to keep on going. No matter what comes your way, you can’t take it as something that’s going to break you.

TATUM: I want to go back to you being too scared to come to Buckner, because a lot of us forget how hard that transition is from living with someone to living on our own.

KELSEY: I got scared thinking, “What if I can’t do it? What if it’s going to be hard? What if I can’t give them enough attention, enough of what they need?”

TATUM: But one of the things that makes this concept work so well at Family Place is though you are absolutely on your own, you still have a lot of support from people who are either in similar circumstances or people like Family Place staff. How did that support help you make the transition?

KELSEY: It’s so great. It’s a blessing. Just when you think things are so tough you don’t know where to turn – just being able to speak out and ask for help – because that’s something I wasn’t used to. I would hide everything away and I would try to figure it out on my own. But they’re here and they tell you, “We are here to help you, you can count on us, you can bring your needs to us and we’ll figure out a way; we’ll do it together.” I never had that. I always had to figure it out on my own. When you come to a place like this, you see a different side of it, that you’re not alone and that there are other people just like you.

TATUM: So what is your goal educationally? What are you doing now?

KELSEY: Right now I’m working on a bachelor’s in nursing. I’m very excited about it. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. My mom’s a nurse, so that’s kind of something that intrigued me. I don’t know if that’s where I’ll stop. I want to be more involved, get to know my patients, you know, on a different level. That’s always been a dream of mine is to have my own clinic, be a nurse practitioner.

TATUM: What about your goal for your life after Family Place?

KELSEY: To make the best life I can for me and my girls because they’re all I have, really. They give me my love every day. I see their smiles, their faces, and I just know I want to keep that there.

TATUM: Would any of this – your educational or life’s goals – be possible for you without Family Place?

KELSEY: Possible, yes. Easy? No. This place takes a lot off your shoulders. You don’t have to worry about a place to live, about a lot of things. They’re always there to help you. If I was out there I’d have to be working and struggling and here I know it’s going to be OK. I know I’m safe. I just – I can breathe a little bit, you know.

TATUM: That’s part of what this place does – it helps mothers be really great mothers, right? What do you have to say to people who help make this a reality?

KELSEY: “Thank you.” It’s everything to me right now. It’s a building block for me to get where I need to be to be the best that I can be. I have a lot of friends that I know are in the same situation. And they’re stuck. I had a mom who was stuck for years. So to have something like this is a blessing. It really changed our life.

TATUM: Does your faith play a big role in your life?

KELSEY: It’s a big part. Before I made the transition here, I started getting closer to God. I had been in and out of the church as a child, but I never was really close. And so as I started looking for changes, you know, seeking a way out of what I was dealing with, I knew that I didn’t really have God in my heart, I didn’t have Him by my side, and that’s why I felt so alone, because I wasn’t giving it all to Him to take care of. It was hard for me to trust anybody because everything I ever knew was broken or left for me to deal with on my own.

So when I came here, had my own space, could breathe a little bit, I could really devote my time and energy just looking into the Word and finding whatever I could to help me through that day. I’d read through a verse of Scripture and usually, you know, every single time it’s something that I needed for that day to get me through.

TATUM: You wrote the poem, “Mommy,” about a conversation with your oldest daughter. So when did that conversation happen with her?

KELSEY: It’s constant. She has her rough nights where she cries because she misses mom and dad being together. It’s hard that she’s in school and she sees two parents come to this and two parents come to that. Everybody has their mom and their dad right there and she doesn’t have that. But she knows that I’m always there, so it’s OK. I’m there, she’s OK.

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