After earning her bachelor's degree in 1996, Monique embarked on a rewarding career working with people who have various types of disabilities. Her work, along with being a mother of two young children, kept her busy helping others. After finally leaving an abusive marriage, Monique found herself raising her children on her own. Although she was still determined to be independent, Monique was faced with unexpected health challenges for both herself and one of her children.
Derek took on a father figure role for his younger brother after their dad passed away unexpectedly. Derek was only 14 — his brother was nine. His mother struggled to cope with the loss, and Derek eventually found himself working nights to pay for the things he and his brother needed. All the while maintaining his 3.6 high school GPA.