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Last spring, 21-year-old Savannah stood confidently as she admired the finishing touches to her part of a community mural project in Atlantic City’s Venice Park neighborhood. She was selected for a paid internship funded by a Community Development Block Grant to beautify the local basketball court. The project was in partnership with Stay Hungry Sports and the Atlantic City Arts Foundation. Her excitement stemmed from the affirmation she received from leads involved with the project.  Atlantic City’s mayor, Marty Smalls, visited the mural numerous times, and the recognition from being a part of a community mural project was very affirming. In school, Savanah took advanced placement classes in art and studied graphic design.  

Savannah, who identifies as racially mixed and homoflexible, was adopted at age three by parents of different races. Growing up in predominantly white Manahawkin, NJ, she said her difficulties were numerous.

“All my friends looked like their parents…I didn’t have baby pictures, so I didn’t know who I looked like.”

She recalled that her hair was a source of ridicule in school and of tension with her mother, who didn’t know how to manage it. Leaving home at 13, she spent the next five years in foster care programs until aging out at 18. Not able to make it on her own, she found refuge at Covenant House New Jersey. 

Her sexual identity had not been a problem for her while residing at the shelter, feeling accepted and loved as she is. Savannah said that she wishes the PRIDE events that usually occur during June didn’t have to be canceled due to COVID-19 so she could proudly participate. “Hopefully, next year.” Feeling “very sad” about racial inequality tensions.

Savanah said it was an ongoing topic of discussion among her peers at Covenant House Atlantic City. “We all talk about it. Some people are taught to see color, and that’s not right. We all need to come together as a collective and make a change, “stating that people have a choice to be “part of a difference.” Being a part of the mural project was one way Savannah did her part. She also intends to vote in the upcoming election to make her voice heard and counted. 

Savanah worked hard to save her money and transitioned from Covenant House early in the summer of 2020. Although she experienced some bumps in the road like many peers her age, Covenant House New Jersey has continued to welcome her back to try again, and for that open door, she is thankful. 

“You know how some kids leave home but then come back sometimes? That’s what it’s like for me with Covenant House, like, coming back to my family.”

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