A temporary family of seven


Kat Sarafianos

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen senior RonTayza Hill was eight, her family went through a very unexpected change. They had just moved into a small three bedroom duplex in Columbia following her grandmother’s death. Soon after, her mom became a foster mother to her cousins and all of a sudden, they had three more kids move into the already cramped duplex. 
“[After the death of my grandmother], one of our relatives started to roam off from her responsibilities…as a mother, starting to go towards drugs in order to deal with her sadness from my grandma dying. She had three kids who still lived with her; one being barely two years old, another one five years old and the other 11,” Hill said. “There were a lot of stories going around my family about this and my mom decided that she was going to do something about it; we took them in.”
Hill credits her mother’s concern for the kids’ well-being and general selflessness as the reason for why she didn’t mind adding three kids to the family of four’s already confined living spaces.
“My mom became a foster mom because she didn’t want to see those three kids be separated because obviously with those types of issues, there’s going to be someone coming around, asking questions,” Hill said. “She didn’t want to see that family…break up because of something that was completely out of their control. She became a foster mom to give them love and something stable and give them what they were being neglected from. The fact that my mom did not care [about the lack of available space], that she was so selfless in that situation and she was able to give them a home and something stable, it just didn’t matter [that they moved in.] Whenever we did go to get them and try to move their stuff out, they had barely anything to move out.”
As a result, Hill developed a unique sense of empathy and concern for others. Making connections, getting to know new students and striking up conversations with random people are now an everyday part of her life.
[quote]“She’s one of the most outgoing people I’ve met, constantly making conversation with people she doesn’t even know for the sake of being welcoming and friendly. I don’t really have one specific example because I see it every single day,” friend and senior Ellen Dill-Hirscht said.[/quote] “Every time we go anywhere she sees multiple people she knows and always is so genuine and caring about others and really wanting to talk to them and hear what they have to say. Her personality has allowed her to meet an endless amount of people, while having deep connections with them.”
Aside from her increased interest to know more about people, Hill’s efforts to help and give back to her community have increased as a result of her mother’s influence.
“Growing up with [my cousins] and also having my mom help them and doing so much for them and others consistently, even when she was dealing with her own sadness, it made everything a bigger picture,” Hill said. “Yeah, people had to share rooms and there was less space for everyone, but we always made it work. I feel like little kids know that if [someone doesn’t] have food, share. If you have a big enough house, you can make room for others [who don’t]. It just didn’t really matter. It’s about more than just yourself.”
Examples of her efforts to help her community are the many service and education-based extracurriculars she’s in. Hill is a leader in the world service club, Global Issues, and has organized many annual charity drives for those in need.
“RonTayza shows compassion for others by being involved in so many activities in order to make a difference and also learn about others. She’s a leader in Global Issues and a member of many other clubs. One thing I’ve noticed she does for these activities is get the word out about issues and events,” friend and junior Katie Kirchoffer said. “Because RonTayza so naturally wants to meet and talk with people, she always spreads information about whatever she is passionate about, whether that be by word of mouth or actively promoting it through group chats or posters around RBHS.”
Despite her many club activities, RonTayza made a point early on in her high school career to focus on her own self-betterment. As a result of her becoming involved and more knowledgeable, she found herself more aware and socially conscious of the issues around her.
“I would say coming to high school, there were a lot of people I was friends with previously who were definitely not homophobic, but just unaware of the ignorant comments they would make towards LGBT people. I feel like joining the club Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) made me way more aware of issues that I, as a straight person, don’t have to go through. Coming into contact with kids who were LGBT made me realize just because it’s not happening to me, doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a moto but something I try to stick to is being passionate about what I’m talking about. I’m not going to stand by if someone is insulting someone else or saying something ignorant. I like to learn about other people, and I would say that learning about a lot of other people gives me a lot of different perspectives and that’s what drives me [to not stand by in the face of ignorance].”