My troubles began from the start of my life when I was born positive with cocaine in my system, due to my mother’s drug abuse during pregnancy. From there, it only continued to get worse.

I remember being just a young girl as I watched my mom and dad arguing on a street corner while I sat all alone in the car; that is, until the police came. I can’t remember what they were arguing about, but I could see that there was yelling and violent motions as they attacked one another. From that moment, I bounced from home to home, staying with different relatives and families, being torn away from my siblings and parents.

It was my eighth grade year, when I had no clue where my life was headed, that I began to believe what everyone was saying about me. “She will be just like her mother, on drugs and in the street.” So I started to rebel and not listen, but that didn’t get me anywhere. I had a friend that knew what was going on in my life and suggested that I try lacrosse as an outlet for my frustration. I remember thinking to myself “it’s a net and a pole, what kind of a sport is this?”

Over time, my love for the sport grew. It was always there for me when I was going through hard times with my family. Moving from home to home was not the easiest thing while being in school because I never knew where I was going to go next.

It was during my freshman year at John Adams High School, when I didn’t know where to turn or what to do, that I looked for the lacrosse team on my gym period. That’s when I met my amazing mentor, Coach Palmieri.

She explained to me that John Adams didn’t have a team but she would try to make it happen. During this time I didn’t know what to do with my life because lacrosse was all I knew. A few months later Coach Palmieri came to me with great news: John Adams was starting a new girls’ lacrosse team. I was ecstatic.

The following summer the Empire State Cup was brought to my attention. But coming from a low income family, I never had the money to pay for anything beyond the basics. Thankfully, Matt Levine (founder of CityLax) provided me with all the gear I needed to be properly equipped when playing lacrosse. CityLax provided the necessary equipment I couldn’t afford. This was such a blessing because the Empire State Games opened up a whole new world of experience for me and gave me a whole new perspective on what I was capable of achieving. I no longer had to go in the bottom of my drawer and scrape up my pennies to try and get the exact amount to buy a pair of goggles or a single mouth piece.

My home life was not always the easiest, but being a part of the lacrosse family at CityLax gave me the confidence and ambition to pursue a better future for myself. Most people probably believe that not having a parent engaged in my life has tremendously impacted me, but the CityLax family has always been there for me, no matter what the issue has been.

Throughout the years I have taught myself what NOT to turn into. I refuse to follow in either of my parents’ footsteps. The struggles they put me through as a result of their mistakes is the fuel that drives my motivation to succeed.

I feel that even though my life has been filled with hardship, I have become a stronger and more determined young woman. Nothing will stop me from fulfilling my dreams because CityLax was there for me. Now I can pass on that same support they gave to me to other girls who may have similar backgrounds.

And here I am now, with almost a full scholarship to Wagner College to play D-I women's lacrosse. I know that things will still be difficult. I still need money to pay for textbooks and the rest of my tuition, but I know everything will work out.

Hardships are a part of life that everyone must deal with. These hardships can either enable you to succeed or cause you to fail. The outcome of these obstacles all depends on how these situations are handled. This may have sounded like a typical story of a girl from Queens struggling to make it. However, I feel the way I have handled myself and grown into a mature young adult is what makes me stand out from the rest.

Joanna Muniz graduated this spring from the John Adams School in New York City. She started playing lacrosse through an urban program called CityLax. In the fall, Joanna will attend Wagner College on a scholarship to play NCAA Division I lacrosse.