Dellarontay Readus, a Memphis high school grad, already made the news when he was accepted to every Ivy league school in the United States. This accomplishment was made even more amazing in understanding the obstacles Readus was up against. Growing up with just his mother, the small family struggled to make ends meet. Readus shared that he would have to take a bus every night to the public library to use the computer and internet for homework, since his mother could not afford such things at home. Despite the hurdles in his way, Readus was one of a few teens ever accepted to every Ivy league. Readus announced his enrollment at Stanford University with a full ride scholarship, but he then had to face perhaps the biggest hurdle of his life.
Soon after his high school graduation, Readus’ mother and biggest supporter, passed away of stomach and heart complications. This left Readus with no immediate family to help and little resources to pay for his mother’s funeral arrangements. Doing the only thing he felt was right, Readus planned to us some of his college award earnings to properly bury his mother. However, after making news for his amazing achievements through great adversity, the Memphis community and even those around the US have rallied to raise funds for Readus’ mother’s funeral. Asking for only $2000, Readus quickly raised almost $17,000. Readus expressed heartbreak at the loss of his mother, who he cites as the main reason he got to where he is. Even with the loss of his mother, the resilient teen said that she will continue to be his motivator through college and the rest of his life.
A Social - Ecological Perspective on Resilience
Resilience in research is often defined as the ability to make positive growth and change despite the presence of multiple stressors and risk factors. Many researchers are devoted to establish a solid understanding of how it is a person can be resilience amidst the ever changing environment and uncontrollable forces in the world. A social ecological perspective on resilience works to understand how a disturbance within a person’s environment can great opportunity and set the stage for renewal and reorganization. In other words, a disturbance in resilience research refers to something that throws off the balance of a person’s life. In this case, the death of Readus’ mother.
While Readus faced numerous barriers and smaller disturbances in his life growing up, he developed the ability to be adaptable and find the resources he needed to grow and develop within his social ecological world. This way of life became normal for Readus, and therefore balanced. The term ‘balance’ in resiliency research does not assume everything in a person’s life is established and consistent, but rather balance is different for each individual. Each person works to strike a balance in their life; to create a normal way of operating in their world so that they can get by with what they have. In this sense, a disturbance will throw off a person’s balance. However, the social ecological perspective does not view a disturbance as a source of crisis or concern, but a chance for reinventing a balance. Resiliency in this sense is not the ability to control the changing environment, but to adapt and cope with such changes (Folke, 2006).
Does a person’s steam ever run out, though? When faced with one disturbance after another, small or large; how much can one person take? Resilience research has discussed that resilience actually grows exponentially with time. So a person that demonstrates great resilience early on, will continue to develop the skill of adaptation and coping, so that with time, their “normal” is not the expectation of non-changing environment. Alternatively, a person with strong resilience creates their “normal” to be dependent on their ability to adapt, not their ability to control.
Another common focus in resilience research is understanding why two individuals with very similar circumstances can go down drastically different pathways. The essence of this research is that while two people may seem to live identical lives on the outside, each person’s life is made up of intricate moments that weigh greatly on the direction their life may take. The social ecological perspective establishes that time and place, relationships, innate abilities, and every small occurrence in a person’s life interact to determine the level of a person’s resilience.
Readus has been able to learn to adapt from a young age. It may be that he was born with innate intelligence and emotional stability, so that with the support of his mother and a few other role models in his life, he was able to realize he can adapt to his environment. With the passing of Readus’ mother being the largest obstacle he has faced, the social ecological perspective would say that this loss will only make Readus more resilient because he has already realized he cannot control things, but has mastered the ability to find resources in any situation and use those to better himself. In this case, Readus’ resource is the desire to honor his mother.
Folke, C. (2006). Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global environmental change, 16(3), 253-267.
Sachteleben, M. (2015). Dellarontay Readus gets in to all ivy league, needs college money to bury mom. The Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/dellarontay-readus-gets-to-all-ivy-leagues-needs-college-money-to-bury-mom