Online student’s inspirational story goes viral
By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
Four years ago, Dejah Hall was ready to end her life with three pounds of heroin.
Today, she has a new full-time job helping those who used to be her — and that’s in addition to being a mother, a sophomore online student at Grand Canyon University and an inspiration to others.
Hall can’t keep up. Phone calls are lagging and she’s behind in responding to hundreds of messages received, even with a Facebook page solely dedicated to her journey. The 26-year-old is raising her 18-month-old daughter, Lydia, just began her new position as a peer specialist at Community Bridges and is two years away from her bachelor’s degree in Christian Studies at GCU.
Tens of thousands of reactions later, she’s dizzy from attention and energized by the outreach.
“I didn’t anticipate the kind of reaction I’d get from the public but happy to (share with) those who are curious about myself and the path I’ve taken,” she said. “If I can be a vessel … I can only plant the seed. I can’t remove people from situations they’re in, but I can provide them hope.”
It’s the kind of hope she never felt as a teenager, when she began using prescription drugs. And it’s a far cry from what she felt when she was 22 and her $200-per-day heroin habit had progressed into crystal meth.
On Dec. 6, 2012, Hall visited her grandfather on his 91st birthday, and he told her some painful truths of what had happened to their once tight-knit relationship. She went to the bathroom and cried.
“I only imagined I’d be saved through death,” she said. “I thought that was it. I had intentions of killing myself that night.”
Instead, she was saved two hours later by, of all things, her own arrest: It was this lifetime atheist’s sign from above.
“There was no other explanation or reason,” she said. “It was God. It was the only way to be saved from the imminent hell I was in.
“It was a relief. I was tired.”
She was forced to give up her addictions in county jail “cold turkey.”
“Every day I prayed for death, but it was worth it,” she said. “You need to go through that abuse because it shows (addicts) a road they don’t want to go back through and need to remember.”
Two weeks after that fateful visit with her grandfather, after being convicted on felony charges of purchasing and possessing narcotics, she began serving her 2½-year prison sentence — on the very same morning her grandfather passed away. Her time was spent learning Christianity, the Bible and doing prayer circles in the prison yards.
“I knew it would end with either death or prison,” said Hall’s younger sister, Andrea Jones. “I always looked up to her as a motherly figure more than a sister. She was back but not in the same old ways, and if (faith) is what saved her life then that’s what it takes.”
A prison pastor gave Hall information about GCU and other universities, but she was turned away by others because of her background and because she had only a GED. A friend from childhood who earned his degree from GCU recommended applying there.
“God pulled me through to this, and He can do it for other people,” Hall said.
But before she can worry about the long-term plan of earning a master’s in psychology or in a seminary, this wild road of Hall’s life journey from points A to Z first needs to reach point B.
After Hall lost her car and house in the aftermath of her arrest and prison time, Jones recently started a GoFundMe page to raise $2,000 toward a car for her older sister to get to work and transport Lydia.
“She was livid, but I couldn’t care less,” Jones said. “She let me drive her car, gave us the best Christmas and gave shirts off her back. For two years she’s been my nanny at no charge while getting her degree so I could finish my degree (in Elementary Education). It was time to pay her back.”
Hall plans to spend the rest of her life giving back, an outlook that makes for many happy new years ahead.
“In two years she’ll walk across the stage (at graduation),” Jones said of her sister. “If she doesn’t, I’ll drag her there. It’s few and far between who make it through, and I’m happy to say she’s one of them.”
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or [email protected]