CLAREMONT, Calif. — The amount of assistance Anita Rogers got in her life was immeasurable and now she feels it is time for her to give some of it back.
Though she doesn’t graduate from Ramapo for another two years, Rogers, who finished second in the long jump and is also entered in the triple jump and 4×100 relay, has a plan in place for trying to give back more than she received.
“Growing up I had a lot of help,” Rogers said. “People always provided for me. I’ve always had the feeling someone was reaching out with their hand and pulling me up.”
By the time Rogers was 16 she had lived in three houses and changed schools several times. Her mother and father divorced, she went with her mother, but a career in dance was not conducive with raising a young child, so she was sent to live with her godfather, uprooted from school, she tried to adjust to yet another new environment.
“It was very difficult,” Rogers said. “Leaving my mom was probably the toughest. Moving from household to household almost became normal in a sense. Growing up the toughest part was moving from school to school every year. I never stayed at one school for more than a year. It was tough to make friends especially since I was the new kid. Everyone knew everyone already and I come in and had to start from scratch.”
An aunt in New Jersey agreed to raise Rogers and it looked like the high school student had finally found some stability. Then tragedy struck when her aunt suddenly died of a heart attack when Rogers was 16 years old.
“It was tough,” Rogers said. “It was a big shock. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
Forced with having to make another move, Rogers got some help from a local family that invited her to live with them and adopted her like she was their own child.
Rogers knew the son of Carey and Carolyn Jenkins, who was at the school where Rogers attended. He talked to his parents and they agreed to meet with Rogers.
“He talked to them and they agreed to take me in and I lived with them for my senior year and attended Ramapo High School,” Rogers said. “It was a big adjustment for both of us. It was an adjustment for them because they never had a daughter, they had two sons. It was a different experience.”
The three met and talked about the arrangement and worked on the details.
“I was a lot younger and they were at that age where they are getting ready to retire,” Rogers said. “Their sons are in their 30s. They wanted to make sure I was comfortable because they knew they weren’t my biological parents. They wanted to have that conversation with me.”
It didn’t take long for all of them to become a family.
“They embraced me as their daughter,” Rogers said. “I call them mom and dad, they call me their daughter when they introduced me. They treat me no different than their sons. I think it is great.”
Carolyn Jenkins was a librarian and Carey is the founder and executive director of Operation Link-Up, a non-profit organization designed to help local students gain exposure to higher education.
Rogers knew she wanted to attend college, but the couple took her to Ramapo and gave Rogers her first exposure to higher education. She was hooked immediately and made the decision shortly after the visit.
“I couldn’t have imagined getting into college without the help I got,” Rogers said. “It would have driven me crazy. I would have had to talk to so many people to do the paperwork. Mr. Jenkins was the one-stop person. He knew what to do, he knew what paperwork to do, and he helped me get into college. He sent in the applications. It was a really easy process.”
With that burden lifted, Rogers focused on helping others by volunteering her time. She spent her senior year of high school working with battered women shelters, career development organizations, helping the homeless and working with breast cancer awareness programs.
“That’s something that now is in my life, I want to do the same,” Rogers said. “I want to help families. I want to help individuals. I want to help people who are less fortunate than I am. Because growing up that is how I was, but there was always something there to help me in some way, whether it was monetary or moral support.”
After she graduates, Rogers, whose major is Business Management, has plans to start a business that is charity based.
“I definitely want to get my Masters Degree and eventually I want to open my own business,” Rogers said. “With the money I make I want to open up a private organization so that I can help other people. I know I’ll enjoy it.”