Photo and story by Inajas Perry 

It all started when Dyahda Nolan’s mother, Shirley, met her boyfriend, Johnny. On Sept. 4, 2004, Nolan, who was 4 years old at the time, was found by her stepsister, Asia, balled up in the corner with big bruises and marks on her body. Due to her mother’s abuse, Nolan was placed with her grandmother, JoAnn Nolan, who is a retired nurse from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Her grandmother, whose health began to decline when Nolan was 6 years old, was constantly in and out of the hospital with her health continuing to decline.

As Nolan grew up, her brother, Denario Nolan, sat her down and told her the woman she was staying with was not her biological mother, but was instead her grandmother.

“I was devastated,” she says now. “All I could do was cry.”

Her brother was in the military, so he was rarely home. Throughout her childhood, she felt lost with no parental figures. Going into her teens, she was suffering from depression. She felt as if no one understood her, and she felt alone.

“I never had a mother figure,” she says. “I never knew how to open up.”

Nolan faced even more depression with her grandmother’s continual decline in health. “She all I have left,” Nolan says.

Outside of her grandmother, Nolan didn’t have any other close relatives she could rely on, but hope found her in an odd place. On a rainy Sunday morning when she was about 11 years old, Nolan was riding her big mountain bike down the wet sidewalk when an elderly lady with a yellow raincoat and rainbow rain boots stopped her.

“She stared me in my eyes and whispered, ‘God is working—all of this will be over,’” the woman told her.

At the time, Nolan was attending Brinkley Middle School and was in the seventh grade. She didn’t want to participate in any activities because she had low self-esteem and had no one to support her. “It felt like torture–not physically, but mentally,” she says.

Nolan was an honor student, but never participated in any activities because she had so many emotions bottled up inside her. On Nolan’s 14th birthday, Aug. 4, 2014, her grandmother passed away due to heart failure.

“My heart was broken. I had no one left,” Nolan says.

After her grandmother’s passing, Nolan went to stay with her grandmother’s sister, Louise. She started putting away her problems so she could better herself in memory of her grandmother.

As her teenage years unfolded, Nolan started gaining confidence by opening up, going to Bible study and helping out in the community. When she finally got to high school, things started to change.

“I made a resolution and stuck with it,” Nolan said.

As a result, Nolan is now 17 and attending Forest Hill High School as a senior. She loves talking and making new friends. She also loves to work and sleep. Nolan still stays with Louise in Rebel Woods in South Jackson. In the future, Nolan wants to be a therapist so she can talk to kids who have the same problems she faced. Her life’s motto is that it’s possible to take it and keep fighting.

Inajas is a junior at Wingfield High School.