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Cherish Nunnally Boys Town

Boys Town Inspires Teen to Share Her Voice and Become Foster Care Advocate

September 19, 2019     By Boys Town Contributor

Kids and Teens in Crisis, Saving Children, Teens, Troubled Youth

Cherish Nunnally was born addicted to heroin. The state of California took her from her parents shortly after her birth and she spent 19 years in the foster care system. After an attempt at reunification with her mother when she was 16, Cherish was placed in a Boys Town emergency group home in Los Angeles. Cherish says the time she spent in that Boys Town home changed her life. And, it inspired her to find that music could help her find her "Safe Place."

I remember the 48 hours like it was yesterday. First, the altercation with my mom, the fear, fight or flight, grabbing my purse, running for the door, hiding at the neighbor's house to use the phone, calling my best friend and her mother, asking if I can come over, running in the street seven blocks – for the first time in my life at 16 years old – running away!

I remember my biological father circling the neighborhood in his car, yelling my name in the darkness. It was the most attention, or concern, I'd received from him in 16 years.

I remember the police station my best friend's mother took me too – she knew I didn't belong there – but I had to go because my real mother would report me as a runaway. In reality, I was just trying to get out of danger from an impending escalated situation.

I remember sleeping on my grandmother's floor because I had to stay with a "parent." It was there that, for the first time in 16 years, my father and I had a good conversation. He said he would support any choices I made. It showed me he actually did want to be there for me. He just didn't know how.

I remember walking to school and requesting to see a counselor. I remember telling that beautiful soul what I was going through and hysterically crying, saying I would not go back. I remember giving them an ultimatum, saying if they did not have a caseworker at my school before the end of the day, that I would disappear and they would never find me. I remember the social worker showing up and me saying I wanted to place myself back into the foster care system.

Memories are kinda like scars.

I was taken to an emergency group home called Boys Town, located in downtown Los Angeles, a few blocks from Crenshaw Boulevard. I was incredibly nervous because group homes can be scary. I was actually quite surprised. I remember walking into a beautiful home, nothing like what I had expected. Girls my age were walking around and laughing, cooking in the huge kitchen together. I felt safe and cared for in the surroundings.

Once I was settled in and had completed my paperwork, it was time to go through my belongings. For a 16-year-old girl, watching a stranger sort through your black trash bag of assorted items – including dirty clothes and underwear – is an incredibly awkward situation. But the Boys Town staff made it seem like it was no big deal. It was almost as if they were my big sisters or even how you would feel with your mom.

I was still in the process of figuring out who I was, and processing my latest mental trauma. I was placed into Boys Town's onsite counseling. There were so many moments I questioned my own worth, my sanity, my existence, and the why? WHY ME? Being around other girls in similar situations really helped me heal and understand what grace and compassion are. I was not only grouped with other girls in foster care, but at-risk youth who had just been released from juvenile hall. It really gave me a perspective of other people's pain.

During my stay in the Boys Town home, I was able to find my voice. The staff took the time to take a fearful, frail, shy and timid girl and cared for her fearlessly. They made every teen in the home feel loved and wanted, and that there was hope for all of us.

One night we were cooking dinner and we heard a song that put me in the mind of being in a safe place. A staff member looked at me and asked me what my safe place was? I didn't really understand, so she said, "Cherish, I want you to close your eyes and think of a place or person or thing that makes you feel safe. Maybe it's on a beach? Maybe with friends?"

I replied with, "The stage – music and singing has always been a safe place where I feel I can accept love and be free from my scars for 3 to 5 minutes. It's like a therapy for me."

"Whenever you feel like you are in a harmful place, sing," the Boys Town staff member said. "Never stop singing."

I will never forget that moment.

That is when I discovered that music was a part of my soul. That is when I felt like I had a purpose and a why. I decided to go on and pursue music as a career.

Boys Town meant so much to me in changing my life. I requested to stay three extra days at the group home so I could celebrate my 17th birthday there. Boys Town had an achievement system that I excelled in. They knew how much music was going to drive me. Boys Town truly was amazing.

Since then, I have performed and opened for numerous country acts. I've sang at a number of venues. I was able to have one of my songs played on country radio, and I have been to Nashville to start writing and recording my first album.

I use my voice to bring awareness to foster care and at-risk teens. "Safe Place" is a song I've dedicated to all advocates of the foster care system. It is about creating a safe place and environment for kids to be loved and feel safe in a judgement-free zone. Giving kids a place to heal and accept love and give it in return without conditions. I hope to inspire more to speak up and share their truth. Shared stories save lives. I want all kids to know they are never alone.

Safe Place

Some days I love you, even when I don't want to,
Couldn't leave you if I tried
You're the arms that hold me, the one's I say I don't need,
You still catch the tears I cry, every time, whoa I…
One I can turn to, when the world starts caving in,
One I can count on, what I keep questioning,
When I'm lost, when I'm broken,
When I'm tired of not knowin'
You're my shelter at the end of every day,
You'll always be my SAFE PLACE

You're what I'm running from, sometimes you're just enough
You're the why I don't sleep at night,
Every time, you're what I…

What I can turn to, when the world starts caving in,
What I can count on, what I keep questioning,
When I'm lost, when I'm broken,
When I'm tired of not knowin'
You're my shelter at the end of every day,
You'll always be my SAFE PLACE

The place I need, you'll always be, what I can turn to,
What I can count on…

What I can turn to, when the world starts caving in,
What I can count on, when I keep questioning,
When I'm lost, when I'm broken,
When I'm tired of not knowin'
You're my shelter at the end of every day,
You'll always be my SAFE PLACE

Click here to listen to 'Safe Place' from Cherish Nunnally.

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