Her laughing eyes and soft voice belie the strength of character that emanates from her.
Christy Schroeder is a brilliant and vibrant young woman who was born and raised in Amarillo. She is president of both the Psychology Club and the Finishers Club. She is the hope chest coordinator for the Badger Hearts Club, treasurer of the Biology Club and an active member of Phi Theta Kappa.
Dr. Mike Bellah, an English professor and sponsor of the Finishers Club, teases Schroeder by saying she is majoring in clubs.
“Actually, I am constantly amazed at how she keeps up with everything she does,” Bellah said.
Schroeder is turning a terrible childhood into a beacon of hope for many abused and neglected children. She will graduate this spring with a degree in social work.
“Child Protective Services came to our house many times,” she said. “And as a child, I never could understand why they didn’t take us away. The system is flawed, and I want to become skilled and efficient enough to help change the system. You have to start somewhere.”
Schroeder’s experiences shaped her life and defined her in multiple ways. The desire to feel special, needed and loved pushed her to make choices she otherwise would not have made. Birthday parties were scarce for Schroeder, as were security, sweets, stability and the other things that children need or desire.
“One year,” she said, “I was very excited because I was allowed to have a party. Allen, a particular friend of mine, arrived carrying a heart-shaped box like you get chocolates in on Valentine’s Day. I was ecstatic since that was a treat I wasn’t usually allowed to eat. When I opened the box to find it was actually full of stencils, I was disappointed. I thought that I wasn’t loved or valued enough to be worthy of a box of chocolates. So I said some things to hurt him that I have regretted ever since.”
That moment defined her. The worst part was that Allen moved, and she never had the opportunity to apologize for her words or explain her behavior. She recalled keeping the box and stencil from the third grade through high school to remind her never to intentionally hurt someone in that way again.
Schroeder said she has made some poor choices. She is not shy about sharing things she has learned over the years that helped her to move forward and make better ones.
“One of the most important things was taking parenting classes,” she said. “They really helped me become a better parent, and it was a real turning point for me and my family.”
Schroeder has been an advocate with Court Appointed Special Advocates for the past 13 months, and she said she loves it.
“With the life experiences I have had, I can help someone else,” she said. “While some might think that sounds boastful, I feel that since I was one of the children who fell through the cracks, I have firsthand knowledge of what is needed to help make a change so it doesn’t happen to other kids. Representing these kids is really worthwhile, and I am very glad I can do it.”
Schroeder said she despises the term “survivor” because she thinks it implies that the victim of a crime had a choice in his or her situation. Instead, she prefers to be called a “fighter,” an advocate for change and an inspiration for others.
She is a positive example of the ongoing battle children of abuse face as adults and the hope they can have to make the world better for others than it was for them.
“The long-term impact of child abuse is far-reaching, with some studies highlighting that the effects of childhood abuse can last a lifetime,” according to the Adults Surviving Child Abuse website.
Staying busy, helping others and seeking counsel are helpful and constructive ways Schroeder stays in the present and is able to escape the oppression of the past. Having a great support system in place also is helpful.
Schroeder has such a network in place. Like many abuse victims who become fighters or advocates, she has been down a long road with the help of friends, loved ones, professors, advisers and counselors who help keep her on track. She also strives to stay self-aware.
“Christy goes above and beyond what is necessary to help other people,” said psychology instructor Elizabeth Rodriguez. “Sometimes she puts other people before her own needs, and that is something she is aware of and working on, but she really is a great person with the ability to juggle a billion things and still be successful in whatever else she is doing. We’re going to miss her in Psych Club when she leaves.”
Schroeder said that when she shares stories with people who have lived through similar situations she feels less isolated, different or crazy and more connected.
“Feeling connected is so motivating and comforting,” she said. “For me, it is the supreme feeling.
“I am very excited about graduating. It will be sad to leave friends and professors behind, but this isn’t the end.
“It is just the beginning.”
Look out world; here comes Christy Schroeder.