By the time St. Louis arrived at UOPX, she’d already been buffeted by life in the most tragic of ways. The birth of her first son came with complications that delayed her high school graduation. Being pregnant at 19 had also been unexpected and at least partly a consequence, she thinks, of her upbringing.
“In the Haitian community, it’s OK for the boys to do certain things, but it’s not OK for the girls,” St. Louis says. “So, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know until I was much older. For example, when it came to dating, my parents would just say, ‘Hey, we don’t want you to have a boyfriend.’ [They were so strict], I couldn’t come to them to speak to them when I was going through anything.”
Three years later, St. Louis had her second child, a daughter this time. It was a joy that helped her through the first tragedy of her life: the death of her 13-year-old sister from meningitis. There had been a considerable age difference between St. Louis and her sister, but with four brothers, St. Louis had treasured the bond. She paused everything — including her medical assistant program — to process the grief. Eventually, she graduated and on time.
It was the murder of her brother, however, that really threatened to derail St. Louis’ life. At the time, St. Louis was working in a hospital and going to school to become a nurse. Her brother had been released from prison a week earlier when she got a call from her brother’s friend expressing his condolences.
Condolences for what? St. Louis wondered.
The friend explained: Her brother had been killed.
St. Louis thought — hoped — the friend was joking. Another brother went to the police station to make inquiries, and St. Louis dozed, dreaming of her deceased little sister.
“I happened to dream of her, and I saw her hugging [my brother], and I was like, ‘It’s not good.’ Literally two seconds later, I got a text that said, ‘Yes, it was him who was murdered,’” St. Louis recalls.
Eventually, the family learned that St. Louis’ brother had been dropping off his girlfriend at work, where the woman’s ex-boyfriend was waiting for her. He shot St. Louis’ brother and the woman. The woman survived, but St. Louis’ brother was taken into surgery and passed away.