McCORDSVILLE — Mya Blanton exudes a sense of wisdom beyond her 18 years and a positive outlook that contradicts her less-than-sunny upbringing.
The Mt. Vernon High School senior will graduate this week and is already making big plans for her future.
The McCordsville teen plans to study pre-med at Ball State University in the fall to eventually become a physician and hopes to earn a law degree one day as well.
“I have high expectations for myself,” said Mya, who wrapped up high school classes in December but will graduate along with her classmates this Friday, May 26.
She’s leaning toward a career in pediatrics and has also considered becoming a social worker some day. “I’d like to help with kids as much as I can. I’d like to help families that were in the same position I was in,” she said.
It’s no surprise the young woman is focused on serving others. She’s been a caregiver from a very early age.
Mya recalls taking care of her younger brother and sister starting around the age of 6, when she says her parents were frequent drug users.
“I took care of my family as much as I could without the help of parents around,” she said.
“I fed them, changed their diapers, got them baths and got them to bed. I’d sometimes get them ready for school if the alarm went off,” said Mya, who in later years would escort her siblings onto the bus and make them lunch for school.
“I just thought I was being the big sister. I thought that was normal at the time,” she said.
One of her earliest memories of caring for them was when she was in first grade, making Ramen noodles for her younger siblings — then 2 and 4 years old — and walking into the bathroom to find needles on the bathroom counter.
Eventually her parents would ask her and her younger sister to urinate in a cup for them so they could pass a drug test.
“At the time, we didn’t know what it was for, so we just did it,” said Mya, who recounts the years of growing up in chaos.
“During my sister’s birth, my mom got addicted to opioids, then moved on to heroin, and my dad did it with her,” she said.
“They were always off doing drugs or sleeping around, so they weren’t really up for the idea (of having kids),” she said. “They also weren’t up for birth control either,” she added dryly.
“I just found out my mom is pregnant again, so this will be (child) number eight,” said Mya, who rarely keeps in touch with her birth mother, who she said has divorced and remarried multiple men.
“I don’t even know her last name. She’s had a bunch of different ones,” she said before adding that she isn’t sure where all her half-siblings have ended up.
Ever the nurturer, Mya has continued trying to protect her younger brother and sister as best she can. Her 16-year-old brother lives with their biological mom, who Mya said reaches out only when she wants something.
“I hope he’s doing okay, but he doesn’t want to hear my opinion,” said Mya of her brother, with a hint of resignation in her voice.
Looking back now, the teen said she didn’t realize just how chaotic things were in her childhood home in Kentucky.
“I just thought that’s how things were supposed to be,” she said.
It wasn’t until her biological mom’s aunt, Jami Blanton, started coming around, spending time with the kids, that Mya started to realize things were not right in her household.
“Eventually she would talk to me about what was going on,” said Mya, who jumped at the chance to go live with Jami’s family in McCordsville around the age of 10.
Her biological parents would protest guardianship and custody requests for years, but eventually stopped showing up to court dates.
In 2019, Mya and her little sister, who is four years younger, were officially adopted by Jami and her husband Rob, who have two kids of their own living at home.
“I truly think it was just a God thing the way both her and her sister settled in with us. They’re both great girls,” Jami said. “Mya is an old soul and is very responsible and goal-oriented. She’s overcome a lot. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for her,” she said.
Mya shares a tight bond with Jami, who works as the nursing manager at the same assisted living center in Lawrence where Mya works as a certified nursing assistant.
“She loves helping people like I do,” said the teen, who took CNA classes through Mt. Vernon High School so she could land the nursing job.
Mya said it was Jami who inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare.
“She shows compassion for all the residents, and it makes me want to give back to everyone who has given back to me,” she said.
Mya hopes to get her PRN license and work as many hours as possible at the assisted living center when college classes are out of session.
The resourceful teen is driven to bank as much money as possible for college, which she’s paying for herself. Earlier this year, she submitted her childhood story to a Salvation Army college essay contest, which won her a $2,500 scholarship renewable for three years.
“She’s an impressive young lady with a bright future ahead of her,” said Maria Bond, communications director for the Mt. Vernon schools.
Mya is excited but nervous about her impending high school graduation, but also excited to see what the future will bring.
“I am excited to start going to college and figuring out where my career path is going to lead me,” said Mya, who is most looking forward to meeting new people at college and making new friends.
Her tumultuous childhood is just a chapter in her life, she said, one which she thinks has prepared her well for a life of serving others.
She encourages others in tough situations to embrace the negativity as a catalyst for change.
“Anyone can be bitter about whatever they went through, but given my experience, instead of doing harm, I just want to do good,” said the teen, who is thankful for the family members and Child Protective Service workers who helped her and her siblings when they were young.
She admits she had many days where she just wanted to give up as a kid, but her siblings were depending on her.
“It gets better. You just gotta keep pushing through,” she said. “Even though it’s hard now, if you keep pushing through it ends up getting better in the end.”