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Keyla Harrison & Family

I’M IN because I believe that I am one of many other Americans that lived the dream of raising themselves out of poverty. I was raised in a poor family, where having health insurance was comparable to winning the lottery.

As a young girl, I watched my family struggle with alcoholism, abuse and poverty. I was not taught that I could be anything I wanted to be like other children. Instead, I was taught that my maximum potential was to hopefully graduate from high school then work a minimum wage job, where I might get the chance for health insurance and regular health care. Growing up, my ‘health care’ was the occasional visit to the local health department for immunizations. It wasn’t until I was twenty-one that I learned about needing annual well-woman’s check-ups!

As soon as I could, I got a job at age fourteen and moved out of my parents’ house to pursue a better life. I knew I wanted something better for myself. I moved in with my grandmother Lisa who told me that if I wanted to do something different with my life, I had to do something different. I worked up to three jobs simultaneously throughout high school to support myself and save up for college while also participating in sports and AFJROTC where I graduated as Colonel. In fact, I continued to work full time throughout college, managing a retail store, and excelling as a full time student. Of course, it was difficult juggling the duties of a full-time job and being a full-time student, but I was putting myself through college and needed the insurance. This was the first time in my life that I had health insurance!

During my senior year in college, I resigned from my full time job to concentrate on my last year of school and to begin looking for employment in my field of study. This meant I no longer had health insurance. It was during this short period of time that I was attacked and nearly raped while jogging one evening. The resulting medical bills from the emergency room visit were well beyond anything I could afford without insurance. The lack of health insurance had dragged me down once again into poverty. Nevertheless, I went on to graduate from Kansas State University in 2005 with two degrees, sociology and criminology, and secured employment as a probation officer.

Today, I am married with a beautiful daughter and working toward my Ph.D. in finance and operations management. My husband, who grew up rather privileged by comparison to me, was completely oblivious to struggles I and others like me went through daily. If you can imagine our childhood memories are quite different, yet we teach each other new things every day. He grew up in a strongly Republican household, but is now strongly in support of President Obama and the changes he is trying to enact.

I have three siblings who also grew up without health care and still do not have health insurance. This generational curse is difficult to break out of when that is the only life you know. I am the people and the people yearn for something better! I’M IN, MR. PRESIDENT!

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