Student’s dark past leads to hopeful future

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Student’s dark past leads to hopeful future

Riley Slegers, freshman political science major, works at his job in the New Student Orientation office.

Riley Slegers, freshman political science major, works at his job in the New Student Orientation office.

Michaela Werner

Riley Slegers, freshman political science major, works at his job in the New Student Orientation office.

Michaela Werner

Michaela Werner

Riley Slegers, freshman political science major, works at his job in the New Student Orientation office.

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Riley Slegers always knew he was adopted but when he found out who his mom, he found out she was a crack cocaine-addicted prostitute.

Slegers, a freshman political science major, said his father is unknown to his mother and himself, just like his half-sister and half-brother. He also does not have a relationship with his mother, who is frequently in and out of jail. He said that he would like to establish contact with his family, but current law states that he must be 21 before he can do so.

“It’s not that I want to have a relationship with my mom,” Slegers said, “It’s that it would be nice to find out more about myself and to meet my siblings.”

Bron crack cocaine-addicted, Sleger’s mother’s drug usage also left lasting effects on his health.

“Crack is a drug that appeals to the senses. So I had issues with some sensory things, such as the feel of jeans when I was younger used to really bother me. It doesn’t anymore,” Slegers said. “I also couldn’t deal with loud noises, such as fire alarms, stadiums or concerts. I’ve outgrown most of them. The ones that still affect me are things like movies but only action movies. It comes and goes, really.”

Slegers said that certain sights used to bother him as well because the visual were over stimulating, but he has outgrown that as well.

Growing up, Slegers said he never felt out of place in his family and even the relatives of his adopted family treated him as their own. He said that he fits in so well that several times he has been mistaken for actually being related to his adoptive family.

“Whenever someone says I look like one of my adopted family members, we laugh about it and tell them. I’m very open about it, and I feel like people should be fine with it,” Slegers said.

Slegers also grew up dealing with depression, which changed who he became as a person according to Debbie Maldonado, junior English writing major and close friend of Slegers.

“He’s been through a lot, and I think considering the situation and the statistics, he’s doing a lot better than someone like him should be doing,” Maldonado said.

Slegers came to PNW after graduating from Lake Central High School and decided to become a student worker in the office of New Student Orientation..

“The people are energetic and lively,” Slegers said. “They’re also very relatable between anxiety, happiness, stress, sadness and every other emotion. They can make me laugh at my own struggles.”

Maldonado, who is a former new student orientation leader, said she was glad Slegers decided to work there.

“It’s healthy for him, just being in an environment with people who are there to support him,” Maldonado said.

Alison Vanderweide, sophomore nursing major and close friend of Slegers, said he is a joy to have around.

“He’s so full of energy, so funny, quick-witted and always has great comebacks,” Vanderweide said. “I think his situation has allowed him to see the optimism in everything and show others the good in the world.”

Slegers puts some of that energy into pastimes like photography and soccer.

“I love the atmosphere about soccer,” Slegers said. “It’s different from another other sport because the fans are so lively and energetic.”

Slegers said his past has allowed him to realize life is not about where someone starts but what comes after.

“I’ve accepted that I can’t change what I’ve been through or where I’ve come from, but I can change where I go from there and what I do moving forward,” Slegers said.