At a young age, Mikeyla Figueroa knew how to be a mom despite never having a child.
She had also already overcome abuse, drug use and the process of righting the ship of her life.
She has held a job for nine years and become incredibly active in numerous clubs and sports at Revere High School (RHS).
Now, after all that and several years of ups and downs, Figueroa will graduate RHS today, June 5th, at Harry Della Russo Stadium and head on to UMass-Boston after nearly never getting past the 9th grade.
Figueroa told the Journal that she never stayed in one place very long when she was growing up. In fact, until she stabilized her life in Revere at RHS, she had never been in any one city or school for more than two years. After her parents divorced when she was 11, Figueroa said everything changed for her and her sister.
That’s when she learned quickly to become a mother and sister.
“My mom and I weren’t getting along at all,” she said. “My mom would leave us alone a lot. So, I ended up having to take care of my sister all the time. I was pretty much her mom for several years. I would always have to keep track of my sister and my mom. I packed lunches for her and got her ready for school. I always had to put myself last.”
Prior to coming to Revere, Figueroa said she was living in Winchester with her mom and had been abused. That turned her life upside down, she said, and caused her to move to Revere with her father.
“When I moved here to Revere, it was like an explosion,” she said. “All the things that had happened in the past just exploded and I turned to using drugs and I stopped going to school and ended up having to repeat my freshman year. I finally realized all I was doing was hurting myself even more.”
That, she said, brought on a turning point – one that has brought her life into a more positive vein and that has given her a brighter future.
She said that while she was having a hard time in school and with life – and was seeing her sister as such a burden – she noticed that her sister was looking up to people at RHS who were involved in activities and trying to go to college.
“My friends were always talking to us about how they were going to activities and working hard to try to get into certain colleges,” said Figueroa. “I looked at my sister one day and saw how she looked up to them and I wanted her to look up to me in that same way. I was already her mom, and I wanted to also be her role model. That was kind of the reason I turned it all around. I see that as so ironic now because when I was young, I saw her as a burden in my life and it ended up she was my inspiration to do better with my life.”
And after failing her first year at RHS, she buckled down and spent the next four years as an active student who was serious about academics.
“I’ve always done this thing where I wanted to escape from my life,” she said. “I always had escaped by going down the wrong path. Then I realized that school – RHS – was my best escape.”
She was elected to the Student Council, was on the Green Team Club and RHS Connect. She was the captain of the Powder Puff team and had played some serious softball before having to give it up for academics. Beyond all that, she has worked almost every evening since she was 14 at the Chelsea Market Basket.
This year, she won the Adams Scholarship from the state, and also took dual enrollment courses in Boston with the Benjamin Franklin Institute – which will give her college credit before graduation.
For the last two years, she has kept a schedule that would make even an adult cringe.
She said she gets up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to work out at the Northgate Planet Fitness. She has to be home by 6 a.m. and on the bus for school by 7:20 a.m. She attends school until 1 p.m., when she has to take the bus to Boston for classes at the Franklin Institute. At 3:30 p.m., she leaves Boston and has to report to the Market Basket by 5 p.m. At 10:30 p.m., she helps close the popular store and heads home to do her homework.
“The next day – same thing again,” she said with a laugh. “This year has been the craziest year of my life. I don’t know how I managed it. Having to take care of my sister and so many other things all my life, I’ve learned to be a very organized person and to put myself second all the time. I’m really good at being prepared, and that’s helped.”
This fall, she’ll begin classes at UMass-Boston on an Adams Scholarship, commuting there every day from Revere. She said she hopes to pursue a degree in psychology so that she can become a social worker or a teacher.
“I think what triggered me to do psychology was I always asked why things were the way they were,” she said. “I always want to know why people do things. I guess it’s just me looking for answers.”
At graduation this year, there will be a lot of proud parents, but Figueroa said none would be as proud as her father, Ricardo, and her sister, as she crosses the stage with her diploma and heads on to bigger and better things