Today we get to meet Monique Cage. She currently resides in the Sky Lake Community in Frayser. Monique is currently a Register Nurse at the VA Medical Center in Memphis, TN. Her area of practice is Medical –Surgical, Hematology- Oncology nursing. Monique is a 2001 graduate of Treadwell High School. She lived in the Mitchell Heights community throughout her primary and secondary education. Monique learned early, that life wasn’t always fair. At the tender age of 11, she lost her mother to liver cancer. The 5th grade at Treadwell Elementary School would never be the same again. She was then raised by an aunt, who we will just say, wasn’t that supportive. But with the seeds of higher learning implanted in her brain by strong teachers such as Mrs. Ellis in the 5th grade, and Mr. John Hancock in the 6th grade, she knew something had to give, but only if she stayed focused.
After graduating from Treadwell, what did you do?
After graduating high school, I knew I needed to go to college to become successful. No one in my family had attended college before, so I had no family support. College, to me, was like trying to learn a foreign language. I took it upon myself to meet with counselors and advisors to get the paperwork I needed to attend college. I was unsure of a career choice at first, but my destiny was soon revealed to me my sophomore year. I knew that college would help me achieve success as well as get away from my surroundings, but what did I really want to do for a living? Internalizing the pain I felt as a child, while watching my mother die slowly of cancer, and similarly the community around me, I choose Nursing as a career focus. I had no idea Nursing was even a major of study. Nursing embodied everything I needed and lacked in my growth and development as a child. Compassion, mercy, patience, and kindness were not normal values taught in my household or exhibited in the Mitchell Heights community. I wanted to be a Nurse. I wanted to care for people. I wanted to heal all kinds of hurt. I would achieve my goal. Monique graduated from the University of Memphis’ Loewenburg’s School of Nursing in 2007.
How has your career helped to influence the people/youth in a positive way?
My career in nursing helps to influence young people because I care for people despite my feelings or biases. It doesn’t matter how I feel, when I am at work my duty is to care for my patients. My job is to provide a healing environment despite the circumstances. When I encounter kids from the same neighborhood that I came from, I let them know how nursing has changed my life and how it has provided revenue for my family. I tell them you don’t always get what you want in life, but that does not mean you have to stop trying to get it. Nursing is a stable career. It is rewarding because I love what I do. I try to show the young people I encounter that you can achieve success without having to be a basketball player or a drug dealer. You can live comfortably with a college education. I let them know that I am not rich money wise, but my family does not want for anything, and that makes me feel like a millionaire. Nursing has taught me discipline, critical thinking skills, and most importantly compassion for others.
Why do you cherish this neighborhood?
I cherish my neighborhood because this is where I encountered my drive for life and success. Right now I am noticing the differences in how I grew up and how my daughter is growing up and I am realizing that she is lacking the drive that I obtained. The daily struggles of mental abuse at home, drug dealers on the block, gangs, and teenage pregnancy made me one tough cookie. My neighborhood showed me that you do not have to roll with the punches that life presents you; you have to keep moving no matter what. I was not a product of my
environment. I was Nurse Cage and no one could tell me any different. I saw a lot of things growing up in Mitchell Heights (particularly bad), but it gave me drive. I was driven. I knew that no matter what was around me, I could survive and come out, and I did just that. It was nothing for me to go to college and survive, especially since the people around me were giving me positivity and a productive environment to grow. I knew that if I could survive through the hardships I faced early on as a child, that I could make it through anything.
What is your vision for residents and/or Mitchell Heights in the future?
I would like to see more programs geared towards individualized plans for children. All kids are not the same. All hardships faced in poverty stricken neighborhoods are not the same. After my mom died and I had to deal with the death of a parent at a young age, I became very angry. If I wasn’t happy, no one could be happy. It was not neglect similar to that of the other children in the neighborhood. I had serious anger issues. Programs that are more individualized for different types of issues faced by children in the neighborhood would be more powerful and provide a lasting impact. I had friends that had either: been victims of molestation or their mother was on drugs. I lived with a very inconsiderate individual. With anger issues growing inside of me and coping with the death of my mother, I did not experience the hurts as my friends. All programs do not fit all children in poverty stricken neighborhoods. You have to individually make plans for each child and their specific situation. I would push for more programs similar to the Boys and Girls Club with added focus on different aspects of identifying at risk youth and the factors that make them at risk. Addressing the different hurts within each child and beginning there. Once we touch on those particular areas, then we can start moving the child towards a more productive environment with productive thoughts. Experts and/or professionals in those areas can teach them how to cope with their hurts toward the best of their abilities.
What can the community do to assist in this vision? The community needs to link up with different organizations, professionals, and the key individuals within the neighborhood that the children respect to get this ball rolling. When I was younger, I did not respect the people that I did not see daily within my neighborhood. I respected the people who were around me every day like my teachers. My teachers dealt with my attitudes every day. I did not respect the wealthy people who came around occasionally from living in their good neighborhoods. I did not respect people who showed up and flaunted what they had. I respected people in my neighborhood who were like me. Mrs. Greer and The McCray family are individuals that assisted me without wanting recognition for their cause. We must bridge those gaps, people of the community and the professionals to assist in making a difference.
Any last words you would like to say?
I have a love for children. I am not ashamed to say that I came from a poverty stricken neighborhood and made something out of myself. I am not going to say that I do not consider myself successful, but I know that there is so much more that I need to acquire. In trying to acquire things, I also know that it is not all about me. I want to help somebody else. Show them that if I can obtain something from nothing, they can do it to. With the success of having a master’s degree as well as a beautiful family that is doing ok, I would like to be that spark that ignites the fire in a child whose situation was similar to mines. I want to help them get to where I am.
Monique will be graduating with a Master’s in Nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Science on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. Congratulations Monique!