On a chilly, rainy April night on Hudson Street, Rosita Curry was ready to give up. She had no money or food, no place to go. Her left leg had gone numb from the cold.
On the streets for seven years, Curry, just 19, was tired of having to sell her body, being abused by pimps, feeding her insatiable need for drugs, sleeping in a cardboard box instead of a bed.
“I don’t want to die out here!” she recalls thinking. “God, won’t you please give me just one person that will stick with me?”
It seems that God was listening.
Just 15 months after that night of despair, Curry found herself walking across a stage at Columbus State Community College, dressed in a spotless white graduation cap and gown with a bright yellow sash that proudly told the world that the girl from the streets who nobody wanted was valedictorian of her high-school class.
Lynn Kee, Curry’s probation officer for several years, was in the audience at the June 13 graduation, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks.
“Her turnaround was about as dramatic as you get,” said Kee, now retired. “This is the first real success in her life. It shows that even under the worst of circumstances, you can excel.”
Just a year ago, Curry was one of several young women profiled in a Dispatch package about human sex and labor trafficking, a festering problem in Ohio that is no longer confined to foreign countries.
Curry’s story began when she was 13 and wandered E. Main Street looking for the two brothers she hadn’t seen since their parents died several years earlier.
Eventually, the fragile teenager was taken in by an older man who clothed, fed and cared for her. However, he soon sold her to a pimp who began prostituting her.
Nearly seven years later, on that rainy April night in 2009 when she cried out to God, Curry was arrested and charged with offering oral sex to an undercover police officer for $20.
At her lowest point, lost and bewildered in the Franklin County Jail on Jackson Pike, the “one person” Curry prayed for showed up.
Marlene Carson, the founder of Rahab’s Hideaway, a small local shelter for human-trafficking victims, had been asked to visit Curry by both Kee and the Columbus police officer who arrested her.
“Oh, she was a mess,” Carson said. “I saw somebody that had been very abused and very neglected. It was looking in a mirror from my own younger days.”
“I just started crying,” Curry said. “I felt like she was an angel.”
Carson gave Curry a place to live, helped get her in drug rehabilitation and encouraged her interest in enrolling in Youth Build Columbus Community School, 1183 Essex Ave. The school is a place for troubled youth dropouts ages 17 to 21.
Curry buckled down to study for the first time in her life. She found math hard but English easier. She did well in all her classes, focusing on nursing-assistant training. Toward the end of the school year, she was surprised to hear her grades had earned her the honor of valedictorian in her small graduating class of 15 students.
“They surprised me,” she said. “I didn’t even know what a valedictorian was.”
Curry is considering going to college, or taking more training as a nurse or a cosmetologist.
While she’s come a long way in 15 months, some of the street still clings to Curry. She doesn’t like crowded rooms because she said you always have to “watch your back.” Sometimes, while watching television, something will jog a suppressed memory and she will blurt out a sad story from her past.
But Curry plans to move forward, not backward.
“I already know how to do bad,” she said. “Now, I want to learn how to do good.”
For more information about Rehab’s Hideaway, visit: http://www.rahabshideaway.org/