Family Place Graduate Recounts Life's Blessings
By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Photography by Russ Dilday
DeLesa Morrison always had goals. She just wasn’t sure how to reach them.
The second of seven siblings, DeLesa often felt more like a parent than a child because she grew up taking care of the younger ones in the family. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked. Their life was hard and money was always tight.
When she graduated from high school, she continued to set aside her goals to focus on her siblings. But after a year, she decided it was time to do what she wanted. She used her boyfriend as her escape and moved in with him at 19, but by the time she was 21, she was raising a child again – their newborn son, Tradarrius.
Though she had her own set of struggles, DeLesa continued to help her family as much as she could. At 23, she took care of her younger siblings while raising a 2-year-old; tried to pass her prerequisite courses for radiology; worked a part-time job and had to deal with her son’s abusive father.
She was sinking beneath the weight of too many responsibilities and didn’t have any options until she read an article in the local paper about a new program for single mothers. Buckner Family Place opened in Lufkin in 1997, and DeLesa was among the first residents to move in. She had just been accepted into a two-year radiology program at Angelina College and had won two scholarships. Things were coming together, and she felt like God led her there.
DeLesa got her first real taste of independence, and it was sweet. Before Buckner, she had to rely on her family or Tray’s father to help take care of Tray while DeLesa worked and went to school. With child care available on the Family Place campus, she knew Tray was in good hands.
She also had access to resources she might never have found otherwise – like diagnoses for Tray’s speech impediment and learning disabilities. Because he was diagnosed early, DeLesa and the staff at the childcare center were able to get Tray the help he needed.
DeLesa graduated from Angelina College and Family Place in May 1999. She spent one more year in Lufkin, but she had Houston in her sights the entire time. She took her pick of job offers, and she and Tray packed up and moved into their new life.
She worked as a radiology technician at Cypress-Fairbanks Hospital, saved up her money, and in 2001, became a homeowner. Over the years, she discovered her passion for women’s health. She took continuing education courses in the subject, passed the board and got her start in mammography at the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, where she has been working since 2003. She has also worked in the mammography department for the Harris County Hospital District since 2004.
DeLesa hasn’t seemed to age one bit in the 13 years since she was last featured in Buckner Today, but Tray has grown into a young man.
The high school junior seems quiet and introverted until you get him talking about games. He is obsessed with video games, writes his own roleplaying narratives (RPs) and draws anime-style sketches of the characters in his stories. His RPs are incredibly detailed; His latest one filled about 90 pages with character descriptions and storytelling. He’s been working on his voice acting to go along with his characters, too. One of them is British.
Tray is doing well in school. He’s on the A/B honor roll every semester and his favorite classes are web design and animation. After he graduates, Tray’s dream is to go to school to become a game designer.
Tray always has a ready video game partner in his cousin, Stephon, who started living with their family in January. They’re both 17 but that’s where the similarities end. Stephon is outgoing and talkative, loves music and wants to work in the entertainment industry. He’s already paving his way, making connections with a local record label and acting as the manager of a talented singer he met at church.
DeLesa encourages the boys’ dreams, but always emphasizes the importance of education. Both boys have grown up watching DeLesa’s hard work and successes, so they tend to listen.
Love and marriage
[caption id="attachment_5368" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Clockwise from left: Stephon (DeLesa's nephew), DeLesa, Tray, Deylan and LaNeail."][/caption]
There have been developments in DeLesa’s love life, too. She met her husband, LaNeail Alexander, at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital when he was passing out fliers for a poetry reading. They hit it off immediately over their shared love of poetry, but DeLesa was nervous about how Tray would feel, seeing his mom dating. She waited for three months to introduce them, and they quickly built a rapport. LaNeail could relate to Tray, because he, too, had an absent father and was an only child for much of his childhood.
After six month of dating, DeLesa and LaNeail started ring shopping without telling each other. They were both planning a surprise proposal and they picked the same day to do it. When the day came, they got into an argument because each kept unwittingly throwing the other’s plans off course. By the time they figured out what was going on, they had thrown rings at each other. All was quickly forgiven, though, when they realized how funny and ironic the whole situation was.
She became DeLesa Morrison Alexander in 2007 when they married after a year of dating. Their life together hasn’t been without struggles – most notably, dealing with infertility.
DeLesa and LaNeail wanted to have children together, but after their diagnosis, they weren’t sure it would happen for them. While researching their options, DeLesa came across the Tinina Q. Cade Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to serving families battling infertility and providing financial assistance for infertility treatment or domestic adoption. They applied for a grant, said a prayer and waited. Out of more than 200 applicants, their family was chosen as one of six to receive assistance.
Even with the financial backing to go through with in-vitro fertilization, the process was invasive and hard on the family. Their first embryo transfer was unsuccessful but their doctor offered to do a second transfer at no cost. Nine months later, Deylan came into the world. Now, he’s a busy 16-month-old, getting into everything and turning their world upside down.
When Deylan gets a little older, DeLesa hopes to continue her education, pursuing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health administration, keeping sight of her goal of managing a radiology or mammography department. But, for now, she’s happy with where life has taken her.
“I’m so, so blessed,” DeLesa said. “I’m so blessed and favored by God. I have independence and financial means. I’m stable. I’m happy. I’m blessed. We feel that God has touched us in so many ways.”
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