FAMU student beat the odds

Photo submitted by LaQueena Ward

LaQueena Ward is blessed with a pretty face, a face that hides a painful past from those who do not know her.

Ward, a senior social work major at Florida A&M from Orlando, has without question beat the odds.

She was born five months early on June 17, 1995, to a drug-addicted mother and a father who suffered from alcoholism. Born with drugs in her system, she weighed only 1 pound, 7 ounces at birth, forcing Ward to battle almost as soon as she took her first breath.

Ward was in foster care until she was 3 years old. Her great aunt, who Ward refers to as her grandmother, when her foster mother’s health began to fail, took in Ward. Ward lived with her great aunt until she was 14.

“I got into a lot of trouble between middle school and high school,” Ward said. “My grandmother had eight other kids to look after, so I sought for attention elsewhere.”

Ward said she fought a lot, robbed people, always ran away and was even in a gang.

“I ended up on probation for accumulated things; mainly fighting, so I had to wear an ankle monitor at 14 years old,” said Ward.

“If you get in trouble one more time and you get arrested, I’m going to leave you at JDC (Juvenile Department of Corrections),” Ward’s grandmother would say.

Ward got into trouble again and was arrested, which resulted in her being transferred to the JDC.

Ward went to court the next morning to find that her grandmother wasn’t there. “She stopped answering my calls, she just was like, she didn’t want anything to do with me,” Ward said.

Ward was placed in a group home called Boys Town, a group home that was established in 1917 for children who are at risk.

Ward said that she liked the group home setting a lot better and that she never wanted to be adopted.

Ward began to turn her life around at Boys Town. At age 19 she got her first job at Walmart and began to save her money.

The Postsecondary Education Services and Support also played a role in her turnaround. The program is designed to serve as a support to young adults who are or were in foster care. The program gives you a stipend and supports you until you age out at 23.

Ward graduated from high school and furthered her education at Seminole State Community College in Sanford.

It wasn’t long after earning her associate’s degree that Ward decided to transfer to FAMU in January 2017.

Because of her past she was guarded and that initially rubbed people the wrong way.

“I thought Queena was rude and I didn’t like her at all,” said Nechelle Davis, a recent FAMU grad. “My feelings have changed. Queena may seem ‘hard core’ but she’s really a marshmallow on the inside.”

Considering everything that Ward encountered throughout her life, one would never guess that she would have come this far.

When asked to describe Ward in one word, her friend Lazambria Johnson said, “Triumphant. After learning her story and how she was raised I had a newfound respect for her. I know we all have a story but listening to hers was inspiring. Not a lot of people make it out of foster care and go on to college and succeed for that matter. But she took her test and turned it into a testimony. She is definitely an inspiration to me and others around here. She has an amazing story to tell.”

Ward has flourished since transferring to FAMU. She has not allowed her painful past to hold her captive.

In the fall of 2017 Ward joined the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she serves on the executive board. She is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Honors Society.

Ward is scheduled to graduate from FAMU in May 2019. After graduation, she hopes to go to law school and become an attorney for children and families. She also has aspirations of owning her own transition home for women and teens who have a past such as hers. She is looking to build her career in New York City.