My name is Justyce La’Mara Grant. I am a junior at New Britain High School. I am 16 years-old, my birthday in November 9th, and this is my story. When I was six years-old my sisters and I were taken away from our mother by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and were placed in separate foster homes. Mom was sick, addicted to drugs, and couldn’t care for us. We were staying with our grandparents at the time; grandma didn’t have her sense of smell due to a car crash.

My father was in jail when all of this was taking place; he was in and out of my life the same way he was in and out of jail. When he got out of jail he decided to take custody of me. I moved in with my father and my sisters moved in with my aunt. When I was eight, living with my father, he began abusing me; sober nights were bad, but drunk nights were horrible. I was abused by him until age thirteen, when I finally told someone about the abuse that was going on. Of course, no one in law enforcement did anything, so I told my older brothers. I had two older brothers, Justin and Joseph; Justin was the older one. When I told them about what was going on, Justin was beyond furious. The next say he picked me up from school and brought me to his house. From that point on I lived with my brothers.

My brothers taught me almost everything I know -- from the streets to the books. Everything I needed to know, they made sure I knew it. To my brothers I was the princess; they bought me anything and everything that I wanted and needed. They were my protection; I felt bad for anyone who bothered me because they were going to have to hear from both of my brothers. One thing my brother Justin always used to say was, “It’s never too late to be great.”

On November 8, 2013, the night before my fourteenth birthday, at approximately 11:38 pm, my brother Justin Jayron Grant was shot and killed. I woke on the morning of my birthday to the news that my older brother was no longer alive, that his life had been taken the night before my birthday. That was, no doubt, the worst day of my life. Not only was he my brother, he was literally my best friend, and I lost him to the streets. I thought things couldn’t get any worse, but I was wrong; two weeks later, about five hours after Justin’s funeral, my second older brother, Joseph, was arrested for murder. He was going to jail for killing the killers of my brother Justin. In a matter of two weeks I lost both of my brothers, and on the same day I had to bury one brother, I watched the other get locked in handcuffs and taken away.

About a month later I lost my grandmother, and a month after that I lost my grandfather. I was only fourteen, feeling pain of a thirty year-old. That pain was unbearable. On December 18, 2014, I was arrested for the first time; on. January 14, 2015, I was sentenced to detention for eight months. I no longer cared anymore; the pain was so unbearable, the only thing I had left in me was anger. I was an angry girl. In my mind, if I wasn’t happy, then no one else could be either. I wanted to destroy everyone’s happiness to try and make myself feel better. I was in and out detention for the whole year. Throughout 2015 I was charged with several different crimes, from breach of peace, to criminal mischief, and even attempted robbery. I spent my fifteenth birthday in a group home and my sixteenth birthday in a detention center.

About two months ago I got a chance to change my life for the better when I was placed here in New Britain with my aunt and sister. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about what I’ve been through, along with my brothers. Justin used to say, “It’s never too late to be great,” and he is right. Now it’s my time to shine. And that is my story.