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Author Topic: Shirley and Joy Massey  (Read 3496 times)
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« on: December 28, 2007, 01:48:33 pm »

UC Berkeley freshman looks to her mother for inspiration



IT'S HARD to think of Shirley and Joy Massey, a very special twosome, without recalling that old Helen Reddy song, "You and Me Against the World."

In both cases, it's mother and daughter fending for themselves in a world that has left them on their own, yet they only want the best for each other.

Shirley Massey is the mother, Joy the daughter. South Berkeley is their home. Shirley and Joy dream together and are succeeding against the odds, but struggling against the uncertainty of time.

"Did she tell you I have lupus?" Shirley said of her daughter. "I want to live long enough to see her become a doctor. She gives me the strength to go on."

Joy, 19, a University of California, Berkeley, freshman interested in a career in med-icine, did mention her mother's lupus a skin disease that also can affect the internal organs.

Shirley, 54, has struggled with lupus for 10 years.

"Most of the time, I'm in pain," she said. "Steroids help, but it hurts just to get into bed at night. I pray a lot, and I cry a lot over the pain, which comes and goes."

There is sad crying andthere is happy crying.

"I want to cry every time I see her," Shirley said of Joy.

Shirley is so proud of Joy, who overcame negative neighborhood influences to earn not one, but two academic scholarships to Cal.

"The neighborhood was bad," Shirley said of South Berkeley. "We'd walk by guys selling drugs. The neighborhood is much better now."

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Charles Robinson lives two blocks from the Masseys, but his daughter lives in the same apartment building as the Masseys.

He saw the close bond between the Masseys, the progress Joy is making and phoned Good Neighbors.

"The achievement of the daughter," he said, "and her stick-to-itiveness ... it's old school. We don't see enough of that anymore. The kids around here don't have enough role models among their contemporaries."

Joy's father is in the family picture somewhere on the periphery. Joy has an older brother and she said they're on friendly terms.

But it's clear mother and daughter are the main components of this team.

"Mom didn't have the best growing up, but she made sure I was able to do so," Joy said. "I was raised by my mom, and I'm where I am today because of my mom. I consider my family me and my mom."

Joy saw the serious dropout rate among the South Berkeley kids her age, while she earned a 3.8 grade-point average at Berkeley High School.

"I wanted to do better and in order to do better, I had to break away from those who weren't on the same path," she said.

Shirley works in a day care center, fights lupus, inspires her daughter.

However, it takes a village to raise a child, and Joy was blessed with teachers who saw her ability and encouraged her.

Susan Hodge, Joy's first- and second-grade teacher, recognized a remarkable quality in Joy and told her to think big. In the sixth grade, Patricia Culpepper guided Joy like "my second mother."

At Berkeley High, Matthew Carton called Joy "Doc" after hearing she wanted to be a pediatrician. And Robert McKnight, who was in charge of the school's African-American studies program, influenced her greatly.

But it was Joy's mom who was her "backbone ... my drive." Joy wrote about her mother in the essays that earned those two college scholarships.

"When I graduate from college and become the successful person I wish to be," Joy said, "I'm going to buy my mom a big house and make sure she doesn't have to work ever again."

Besides excelling in the classroom and being president of the Black Student Union at Berkeley High, Joy has fed the homeless, helped children in her neighborhood and worked in foster homes.

Joy has become the neighborhood role model Charles Robinson mentioned. And Joy has just the right message for other disadvantaged youth.

"Just don't give up," she said. "Even though you may be lacking resources I was lacking resources myself growing up you just have to have that drive, that determination. Don't let anyone tell you you can't achieve.

"It is possible."

Her mother lives those words everyday.
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