Born and raised in Oakland, Aisha Scott knows the pitfalls leading to a judicial system difficult to escape.
Aisha was a gifted child whose love of reading had her literally bumping into street poles; and as a student, rarely having homework as it was completed before leaving school each day.
Around the age of ten or eleven Aisha began drinking and running away from home. A dysfunctional relationship with her father introduced her to wine and marijuana which changed Aisha’s life path. The final straw was her sister Ameenah’s murder at the age of sixteen.
She was fifteen years old when her sister’s body was found in an Oakland schoolyard. It was a full year later, while riding home on BART with good news to share that Aisha was hit with the finality that Ameenah was not coming back. With no suspects or resolution in sight, by age 19, Aisha said she wanted to die. She began using cocaine. For the next twenty-five years Aisha would be addicted–in and out of jail.
During periods of self-abuse Aisha transitioned between the homes of friends, to Texas with family where she eventually found work—that is, until an ex-boyfriend showed up. Aisha was soon back on drugs and homeless. She wound up incarcerated for three years in Texas. Informed her next arrest might result in a twenty-five year sentence, she reached out to family and was soon back in Oakland. Her turning point was a 2007 arrest that led to ending the cycle of self-destruction.
While in custody Dr. Montgomery, the court appointed therapist, surprised her with a visit.
Dr. Montgomery asked a simple question: “Are you tired, yet?” Dr. Montgomery saw something in Aisha’s eyes yearning for change. Yes, Aisha was very tired.
Blessed with a restart, Aisha appeared before the judge. He spoke to her personal power to touch another’s heart and wanted to know what she had done to Dr. Montgomery. “I have never witnessed this level of advocacy from this therapist for any defendant the way she has advocated for you, Aisha,” he said. Based on Dr. Montgomery’s recommendation he did not send her to prison. Instead, she was placed in a program that would assist getting her life back on track. Within ten months Aisha was in her own apartment for the first time in her life. She was forty-two years old.
Aisha says she has come so far. Her philosophy of life is: “to live, not just survive”. She has surrounded herself with technology and all the comforts of home. Her advice: “start making plans and being productive.” Her dream is to go back to college, study english, Spanish and kinesiology. She is only a few classes away from receiving a Certificate in Community Social Services.
When Aisha was introduced to Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services (PEERS), she began the journey of reclaiming her spirit. PEERS provides advocacy and support to those facing mental health challenges. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®) is “… an evidence-based practice used worldwide by people dealing with mental health or general health challenges.” After completing WRAP® training Aisha was approached and asked to become a PEERS Specialist. Her natural leadership qualities were apparent and she accepted the position, excelling in her new role.
Another organization pivotal in Aisha’s regaining her love for life is the Pool of Consumer Champions (POCC) which she joined in 2021. There she met her mentor, Jaleah Winn, who helped her grow by teaching essential skills, providing resources and showing her that attention to detail is very important. At a POCC event, Aisha used her newly acquired skills to create and present beautiful food arrangements. When a neighbor showed appreciation for her care and creativity, Aisha realized her mentor, Jaleah, had taught her an important lesson. Aisha was also a recipient of a scholarship from the POCC, and traveled to Florida for a training retreat.
When people love you they want you to do your best. With your best interest at heart, they push you out of your comfort zone and into the best opportunities. Because Jaleah and others pushed her to go to college, Aisha was on a journey that led to finding the apartment she lives in today.
Practices supporting Aisha’s best mental health? Aisha is a prolific reader to this day. She also likes to listen to inspirational gospel rap and watch TV dramas. Doors to a more fulfilling walk through life continue to open for Aisha as she takes pleasure in her work, family and community to their fullest.
In 2020, Aisha’s mother, Mercedes, placed a plaque honoring her daughter Ameenah on a bench near 1st Avenue at Lake Merritt.
Over the years, Mercedes S. Rodriguez continued to follow up on her daughter Ameenah’s cold case. In 2020 she was informed a man matching the DNA collected from the crime scene was located in a Nevada prison. He was serving a 30 year sentence. He has been expedited back to California where he awaits trial.