Today@Sam Article

Student Uses Social Media In Effort To Meet Role Model

Oct. 9, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Tammy Parrett

Bono is quoted as saying, “Music has the power to change the world because it can change people.”

Jamey Portinga, sophomore criminal justice major at Sam Houston State University, is a living example of how music can change people.

When Portinga was 15, she entered the foster care system, having spent her life to that point as a victim of child sexual abuse. While her classmates were playing sports, joining clubs, and spending time with their parents, she was meeting with counselors and investigators and attending court dates.

Jamey Portinga“I felt very out of place and very sad knowing that everyone else got to go home to their mom and dad, and I had to go home to a big facility with staff workers and a room that wasn’t even mine,” she said.

She had been a long-time fan of Taylor Swift and turned to Swift’s music to help her through the tough times.

“Figuratively speaking, she was the only one who had grown up with me,” Portinga said. “She was the only one who had never hurt me or given me away. She always talked about how giving up is never an option and that no matter what people do or say to you, it’s important to keep going and push through whatever life throws at you.”

Without Swift’s music and the inspiration it gave to her, Portinga said she wouldn’t be where she is today.

In one of Portinga’s favorite Swift songs, “Innocent,” Swift sings, “It’s alright, just wait and see, your string of lights is still bright to me. Who you are is not where you’ve been; you’re still an innocent.”

“That song was really important to me, because it really helped me to understand that what I went through was not my fault,” she said. “I felt like Taylor valued me more than my own mom ever did and it helped me through some of the worst times of my life.”

Once she turned 18, Portinga was no longer eligible for foster care. Since aging out of the system, she has enrolled at SHSU in order to pursue her dream of becoming a district attorney so she will be able to prosecute perpetrators of child crimes.

When she began the process of applying for SHSU, she learned about the FORWARD program, which is dedicated to empowering former foster youth, orphans, wards of the court or homeless students by providing the support system necessary to pursue higher education and transition smoothly into college.

“I was excited to meet people who had overcome such adversity to get here; I was thankful to have a support system full of people who understood my past and didn’t define me by it,” she said.

Swift is currently in the middle of her “1989 World Tour,” during which she will play a show on Oct. 17 in Arlington.

In preparation for the show, Portinga has been using the power of social media to share her story in hopes that Swift hears how much she’s helped Portinga. She has posted a number of photos with her story and the hashtag #TaylorMeetJamey to Instagram, which have already amassed more than 15,000 likes. 

“I honestly don’t even care if she speaks to me,” Portinga said. “I just want to be able to give her a hug and thank her for never hurting or leaving me when I needed her the most. She has inspired me to chase my dreams and become something more than a victim. Because of her and the encouragement I felt from her music, I’m going to help victims of child abuse and ensure that I can give them the same support she gave me.”

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