‘I want to be a role model.’ Newark teen’s story is one of triumph in the wake of heartache

At just 14 years old, a Newark teen has overcome more obstacles that many could never imagine.
Rashanna James-Frison says that she wants others to hear her story so that she can help other kids learn to cope with life’s trials.
“I wanted to be a role model for kids that are going through what I’ve been through, show them that they can overcome it,” James-Frison says.
James-Frison has already experienced some of life’s biggest heartbreaks.
“I lost my mother when I was four. She was found dead in a building. The department declared it a homicide, and as far as my father, he was shot,” James-Frison says.
James-Frison’s father was left paralyzed before she was born. From a young age she lived with relatives, until one day, at just 10 years old, she was inexplicably moved into the foster care system.
“That experience was out of the blue…My aunt came to pick me up that day, she said, ‘You have to go and pack your bags. You’re leaving,’” James-Frison says.
James-Frison spent several months in foster care, making the best of the experience there by building relationships with her peers and focusing on school.
James-Frison’s aunt Allison and uncle Andre found out that she was eligible for adoption.
“Once we found out, we made a phone call, inquired about how we can have her placed with us,” Allison James-Frison says.
Allison and Andre don’t have children of their own, but in November 2018, on National Adoption Day, James-Frison legally became their daughter.
“It was just an overall exciting day, a happy day,” James-Frison says.
“Once the judge declared her our daughter, we just flooded our face with tears,” Allison says. “Everyone was crying.”
James-Frison is quite the scholar, excelling in everything she does. She just earned the title of valedictorian of her eighth-grade class and is aiming for it again in high school.
Though she lost her biological father last year to COVID-19, she wears his dog tag around her neck, with a picture of her and her dad. She says that on especially hard days, it is a reminder that she can accomplish anything.
James-Frison will soon be a freshman at University High School in Newark. She hopes to continue to Rutgers Newark for undergrad and then to Howard University to get a master's degree in social work.