MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At Golden Valley’s Perpich Center for the Arts, they have a high school for juniors and seniors who dream of careers as artists and in music.
One talented family had two girls graduate from there and a third in school now. But a divorce, a layoff as a school paraprofessional and more left their mother searching for answers — and left the family homeless at the holidays.
Nya Jones was struggling in mainstream classrooms, so she came to Perpich to perfect her work as an artist.
“She had a learning disability when she was young, and she got good grades, she worked really, really hard. She just amazes me all the time,” said her sister, Ailea Jones.
She has flourished at Perpich despite that learning disability, earning A’s and B’s since starting last year.
“I feel like I’m kind of with my people,” Nya said. “It’s very comfortable.”
Her now-22-year-old twin sisters also went to Perpich. One of the twins, Dahlia Jones, has gone on to sing, competing on the “American Idol.”
“The stage is like a second home for me. It really is,” Dahlia said. “The thrill of seeing the audience and them enjoying what I have to give.”
There are five kids in the Jones family, and about the time you think this is the story of success and overcoming, think again.
“It was kind of like a domino effect, like, divorce, laid off of my job, the landlord coming to us saying they’re selling our house,” said Angela Golden, mother of Ailea, Nya and Dahlia.
With no job and no credit, this family is homeless.
“I do [feel homeless] now. I didn’t before,” Angela said. “It’s scary. I just want to go home.”
The twins have put college on hold and are working jobs to try and hold the family over — but it is still not enough.
“It’s like a wake-up call to see, like, oh, you know, I’m going through this, too,” Dahlia said. “You know, I’m like you.”
Home is now a shelter for mom and three of the children. One room, and a reminder of where they are.
“I cry every time I pull up, I’ll just say that,” Angela said. “It’s not home.”
Their car is loaded with as many belongings as they can fit. One of her sons placed a Christmas tree inside so they can at least feel the spirit in transit.
Her 6-year-old son can only offer mom a prayer.
“He said, ‘Father, in the name of Jesus, please bless my family.’ He named us all off and said, ‘Please let the doors open, please bless my brother and let him do all his homework, and please God, let us find a house. Amen,'” Angela said.
Yet in the midst of it, they offer not pessimism, but hope.
“I have a lot of faith in God. I do,” Dahlia said. “Every day we wake up, look at our verse. ‘I can do all things in Christ.'”
And they have learned that family is what will define this Christmas, because they can see the positive: a sister who has overcome and found her place at the Perpich Center.
“I’m so proud of Nya,” Dahlia said. “She amazes me every single day.”
And they have watched as their mother persevered through it all.
“She’s amazing,” Nya said.
And somewhere in this world, at this time of year, they find reason to believe it will get better.
“[My hope comes from] God, faith. I’m hurting right now, but I feel like I know it’s going to be OK,” Angela said.
That is what Christmas has become: a different meaning — and maybe the real meaning.
“It’s hard now, but I know that it will be over soon as long as we keep working hard, and we keep praying, and we keep going,” Dahlia said. “Christmas means family, and as long as I’m with my family, that’s what Christmas is.”