With her toddler son clamoring to see a SpongeBob SquarePants video and her baby daughter asking for a bottle, the dream of becoming a registered nurse in a maternity ward seems very far away for Sherell Hall.
The 21-year-old single mother lives alone with her son Tristan, 2, and daughter Imani, 7 months, in a small rental home near Sistrunk Boulevard.
"He loves SpongeBob," she said of her handsome son, who is nearly potty trained. She stands at the kitchen sink, making a bottle for her baby girl while talking about the life of a young mother who still imagines a future career for herself, despite her parental responsibilities.
"I'm not gonna lie, sometimes it can get hectic," she said. "I think about it sometimes, that I'm it for them. But I don't regret having my kids. They keep me motivated. They look up to me, and need me."
Hall is an adult client of the SOS Children's Villages- Florida in Coconut Creek.
"I don't know where we'd be if not for them," Hall said of the charity that has supported her and, at times, her siblings, for the past seven years.
The agency serves children in Broward and, a year ago, began assisting kids in Palm Beach County.
Currently two Boca Raton foster children who are too old to live in a residential facility participate in SOS's After Care program, a spokeswoman said. One teen is in her second year at Florida Atlantic University and the other, a male, is a first-year student enrolled at Palm Beach Community College.
When she was a young teen, Hall said, her mother struggled with drug addiction and her father went to prison. She did not know why. What was left of the family was able to stay together and grow up at SOS's Coconut Creek facility.
"They kept us in school and gave us everything we needed," Hall said. "We were fed and clothed, and got new clothes each year and went to summer camps and other activities."
She aged out of the residential program when she turned 18, but still has support from the organization as an adult. She said SOS helps pay her rent and counsels her on life skills.
"Through it all, she continues to believe that education is the key to becoming a successful provider for her family and building a career for herself," SOS Community Relations Manager Vickie Walter said.
Hall's kids accompany her throughout her day, which begins with a bus trip to the Charles R. Drew Family Resource Center, part of the Dave Thomas Education Center, in Pompano Beach.
While the babies are in day care there, Hall attends five classes at the center where adults progress at their own pace toward a general equivalency diploma. She plans to graduate from high school in 2011.
"I know where I want to be, but I don't know where I'm going just yet," Hall said.
At home, her living room and kitchen are lighted with just one desk lamp. Warped pots and mismatched plates line cupboard shelves, and though it was almost Christmas, there are no decorations on the white walls.
Such decor would be a luxury and she said she'd rather enjoy all of that at her mother and stepfather's home, just two blocks away.
Her mother has been living "five years clean," Hall said about the woman who is her "inspiration. I am really proud of her."
Her mother, stepfather and siblings are her support system, she says, and they often take care of Tristan on weekends when it all gets to be too much for her.
She lives a bare-bones existence, with few indulgences."It makes me uncomfortable, asking for things," Hall said.
She is on a financial tightrope held together with a scholarship and payments from her son's father. One setback, like missing classes when her daughter was born in May and interrupted her scholarship support, can mean not having enough milk for her children.
"For herself, she would like a mentor who is a nurse. "I would love that," Hall said.
One day she hopes to become a nurse on a maternity ward. "I always wanted to do that, since I was 12. Watching baby shows on TV, I was always fascinated with it."
At an age when many of her peers are graduating from college, Hall still has a ways to go. But she seems resolved to reach her goals.
"No one is going to do it for me," she said. "I have to do it for myself."
Linda Trischitta can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4233.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times