For nearly two months while a fifth grader at Roquemore Elementary, home for Imani Mogaka was the back seat of a 2010 Kia Spectra. Few knew. She’d arrive at school as always – neatly dressed, homework at the ready, flashing that deep dimpled smile. She washed up at the nearest Quick Trip or a hospital restroom or whatever was expediently on the route.
That route was often different because where the car was parked for the night was often different.
“We had to move from parking lot to parking lot,” Imani explains, speaking of her and her mother, Ryn Robinson, “because security is always knocking on your car window saying ‘You can’t stay here.’”
Now a senior at Lamar High School, Imani doesn’t speak much about this period in life because she fears being labeled “a victim.”
Until she must.
Last school year Imani discussed her homelessness during Richard Greene Scholar candidate interviews and again when up for the Boys & Girls Club of Tarrant County’s Youth of the Year award.
“That whole era of my life. . . it took some time for me to actually realize what happened,” Imani says. “For me, I am still working through that internally. I’ll think about it and start crying. But what I have realized is how much stronger it made me. To let me know you can persevere through anything.”
Consider her the poster child of perseverance. This fall she’ll represent Lamar as its Richard Greene Scholar and 2021-22 Class President.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Tarrant County’s Youth of the Year award? Got it.
“Imani is an amazing representative of what we hope for young people in our society to be,” says Daphne Barlow Stigliano, CEO and President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County. “Far too often we hear stories of when things go wrong. Imani, for me, represents a more common story, and that’s young people working hard to succeed.”
Diligence and resilience are simply part of Imani’s DNA now, a better brought on by a worse.
“Because so many people have poured into me I want to pour into people as well,” Imani says. “I want to one day create affordable luxury housing for single parents.”
“She’s outstanding,” says Melanie Hall, Lamar’s AVID coordinator. “She stands out with her smile, her heart to serve others, and her passion for continuous growth. She is a mature young lady who chooses to focus on what matters most, her education.”
Imani is part academic nerd, part theater geek. She’s a member of the National Honor Society, sings in school choirs, performs in theater plays. Her run for class president was based on what she wanted to do for others.
“We didn’t get a chance to have much of a junior year and barely had a sophomore year,” Imani says. “So I want to do whatever I can to make sure our senior year is great in the best possible way.”
Imani’s mother describes her as “one of those kids with a heart for people. When I say it like that, I mean that sometimes I am a little concerned because there are times I feel like she gives up too much of herself.”
Imani says that’s easy to do, because, again, so many people have “poured into her.”
ike Lamar’s Hall. When Imani didn’t have a work desk at home, one appeared on her doorstep.
Of course, that support system is headed by her mother, who has been instrumental in keeping Imani positive, especially during their most difficult times.
Recently her supporter-in-chief was behind the wheel during a college road trip that spanned six cities and three states (including California) in seven days.
No college choice yet, but Imani says wherever she goes, she is ready for what awaits her.
“One thing being homeless taught me,” Imani said, “is that things are temporary. You are not your situation.”