CNN PRODUCER NOTE carmichaelr says he was a troubled 16-year-old when his Aunt Jean and grandmother offered him a new home in 2001. His Aunt Jean was the one person in his life who made him feel special. "I was very troubled when she took me in. I had a me against the world attitude, and rather than use force or threats she treated me as an adult, a real person. No one had done that for me ever," he said.
One of the ways she helped carmichaelr was by assigning him book reports. He remembers her telling him to read "Of Mice and Men" and write a report on what he learned from the book. "I did it, and I liked it," he said. Whenever he got in trouble at school, Aunt Jean would always allow him to explain his side of the story. "Then my punishment would be writing a report or essay on a book or documentary," he said.
"She gave me the courage to change, she made me 'be' better not just 'act' better. She let me see my dreams and that they could come true if I worked hard at them."
- Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer
Growing up I never had the feeling of being wanted by my own mother, never knowing any other life than that of what I was living. I grew up in a world of drugs and violence, and with a biological mother who never taught me right from wrong. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that my Aunt, who I see as my mom helped me turn my life around. She showed me there are people in this world who do care. Having no children of her own my Aunt Jean raised me as her own, she taught me right from wrong and showed me what it meant to feel and be loved as a person and not some disposable object. In the short amount of time I lived with my Aunt I learned how to love other people. I am forever grateful for this woman. She wanted me when no one else did. After all of the trouble I had been in before she saved me, she put that behind us and helped me build a new life. One of love, respect, and compassion towards other people, something I had never felt my entire life. I was free from my past life, and moving towards a new, and positive life. Although we had some difference of opinions at times I felt, and still feel a special bond with her that I didn’t have before she became a permanent part of my life. She was my light and the end of a seemingly never ending long, dark tunnel. After I graduated I joined the Army, and I credit my doing so to my Aunt. She shaped me into the man I never knew I could be, and the man that was trapped inside. I have so much respect for this woman and if it were not for her I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today, a happily married man with children of my own, that I can raise in a life that I never got to have. They are my world and my Aunt is to thank for saving my life and showing me what it really means to have a mother. I learned from this woman what no school can teach, anyone. I learned how to live my life to the fullest, to be a great man and do for others as I never got to experience.