At Risk: Nearly a Year on Her Own, Shantasia Durr Still Seeks to Find Her Own Way

A year ago, WFPL dedicated several months of reporting to exploring the lives and circumstances of Louisville’s at-risk students. The resultant documentary, At-Risk: Louisville’s Daunting Education Challenge, aired in May 2014; you can listen to it below. Nearly a year later, we’re revisiting the students in the documentary.

Shantasia Durr was first institutionalized at age 5.

She spent much of her youth in social services, living in more than a dozen places until she graduated high school last year. When we last heard from her in the 2014 WFPL documentary At Risk, Durr was trying to learn skills to prepare her for success in the real world.

Though she’d participated in programs intended to help her live on her own, Durr recently said she has struggled through her first year of adulthood.

After graduating from the state agency school Maryhurst and spending a “couple of months” in the non-profit’s transition program, Durr went to live with her biological mother in Owensboro.

She hadn’t lived with her mom for seven years.

“It was not good,” Durr said recently.

Disagreements with her mom turned into full-fledged arguments.

“I guess, because I was away for seven years, you can’t automatically get that relationship back with your mom,” she said.

But Durr said she believes she changed a lot over those seven years; yet she didn’t feel much trust among her biological family.

“I was a very bad kid and I still felt that they didn’t think that I changed, or they didn’t have any hope in me,” she said.

Durr lasted three weeks at her biological mom’s house before her foster mom, Vanaissa Lawson, brought her back to Louisville. But during the two months she stayed with Lawson the pair would also argue. Durr mostly blamed herself, she said.

Durr discusses life in foster care in 2014.

In September, Durr tried living with family in Owensboro once more–this time with her grandmother. But after just one day she overdosed on prescription pills, she said.

“I just thought that I was failing and that I let [Vanaissa] down, and I just felt bad and I was all stressed out,” she said. “So I was like, I don’t want to be here no more.”

Durr went to a hospital.

Back at her grandmother’s house she lasted four months, she said. But during that time there would be more disagreements and a fight with her uncle, who she said she threatened to hurt.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, she left her grandmother’s and Owensboro.

“I didn’t want them to know,” she said of her family. “I actually told them that I was coming up to Louisville to meet a friend, because I didn’t want them to know, or say something, or judge me.”

Durr rode a Greyhound bus back to Louisville where her foster mom, Lawson, met her at the station. She has been living at Lawson’s home in the Beechmont neighborhood ever since.

Durr, 19, guesses that she has applied to some 30 jobs–fast food, security, hospital work–but she hasn’t been successful in finding employment.

As she searches for a job to no avail, her foster cousin, who is 16, is already getting interviews, she said.

“I’m still looking. It kind of makes me a little sad,” she said.

Durr has also signed up at Jefferson Community and Technical College but she hasn’t yet enrolled in classes, she said. She still needs to take a test that would likely place her in remedial courses.

There are still some things she is working on, such as overcoming her fear of using public transportation in Louisville. That’s a challenge she’ll have to overcome if she expects to get a job or go to school downtown.

Durr still has ups and downs. She wishes she still had counselors or a social worker like when she was younger–someone to help her drop off resumes or to drive her to school, should she choose to go. Now an adult, those types of services are no longer available to her.

Though she feels unprepared for life, Durr said overall she feels good about the direction her life is taking.

These days, she said, she wakes up late and applies to jobs. She also decided to take herself off medication that was prescribed for anger and aggression.

She said she knows that not might not be the best decision. But, unlike her years in the care of family and social services, it was hers alone.

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