Influential Person

The most influential person in my life thus far has been a boy named Leland. It is amazing that one tiny little boy could have such an impact on so many lives in such a short time. It is because of Leland that I realized how incomplete my life is, returned to school, and want to spend my life saving precious lives like his. Leland was the second child of a teenage mom who had been involved with drugs and alcohol since she was a young girl. She was the daughter of a friend of a friend and her mother put her out due to her lack of responsibility and her errant ways.She got involved with a young man within ten months they had two babies together. The father was not the brightest guy in the world, but he worked to support his family.

He assumed the mother was caring for the babies while he was at work. In fact, she was not caring for the children and neglected them so severely that the older child, the daughter, died from chronic starvation and dehydration at the age of 14 months. Leland was taken rushed to the hospital and put on life support at the time of her death. He was four months old and weighed less than eight pounds.I began to babysit Leland two days a week and quickly my daughter was drawn in by his little smile and zest for life, too. Leland was so full of energy and was into everything! The couple who had legal custody of Leland decided to divorce around the time of Leland’s first birthday. They also decided they did not want to keep him.

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At that time, Leland came to live with my daughter and me, which was a dream come true for me, as I had always wanted more children but had given up on the hope of having more. Life was wonderful for the next year and a half. My daughter and Leland we inseparable and we were truly a happy family.We went on vacations and did all the little things that make having a family such a blessing. While our lives were going along happily, Leland’s biological parents had been arrested and charged with child cruelty. The father got a five to ten year prison sentence. The mother claimed she had mental problems and got a two year sentence and had to undergo intense counseling and parenting classes. One Halloween night, when Leland was almost three, we heard a knock on the door and there stood a woman from the county department of Children and Youth.

She informed me she was there to pick up Leland to return him to his mother.In less than a minute, my world came crashing down and he was taken away. I never saw him again. Two months later, I read in the paper how his mother had beaten him to death, crushing his skull with a baseball bat. I have never in my life wanted to kill someone so badly. She had taken my son and murdered him.

As you can imagine, both my daughter and I sank into deep, deep depression. As I went through the motions of living, inside I was dead. It took a year for me to finally come around and realize there was something I could do for Leland.

I could save another child form this happening to them.It was then that I decided to go to college when my daughter graduated for high school and get into a career where I could change someone’s life for the better. I checked out different nursing schools and found Medical Careers Institute which had a 15 month Registered Nursing program. The school was also fairly close to where my parents were living. We moved the day my daughter graduated in June, 2009 and both started school in July of that year.

Since starting school at MCI, we have both changed programs, so will not graduate as soon as originally planned.Our graduation should be in June, 2011. Then, I will take my RN and return to Pennsylvania where I plan to work in a children’s trauma center. I also plan to become active in children’s rights groups. I would like to be instrumental in making some changes that would keep biological parents from being able to get their children back after they abuse or neglect them. I believe once a child is in a stable, loving home that is where he should stay forever to be loved and adored and not returned to a biological parent to be further victimized or killed.

Author: Toby Soto


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