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After prison and homelessness, Square Donaldson turned her life around with determination, faith and the UW’s belief.

By Square Donaldson | Photo by Ron Wurzer | December 2023

My name is Square. I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I came to Seattle in 1978 and got my first job at the University of Washington. My supervisor then was Clarence Bennett.

I was doing really well, then everything turned upside down. I seemed to have lost my way, my respect, dignity—all went down the drain due to drugs and alcohol. I did my best to quit, but my best just wasn’t good enough. Then I lost everything. By then I was the mother of six, four boys and two girls. I have 11 grandbabies and two great grandbabies.

You would think that would stop me from drugging and drinking, but it didn’t. From there, I had been to prison three times. After being released the last time, I just couldn’t get it right. I ended up homeless in Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. I lost two daughters and brought one with me in an urn. I stole a baby blanket and backpack to keep her in. The blanket I slept with to keep me warm was stolen. One time, I woke up and my shoes were gone, but by the grace of God, I held on to my baby’s urn.

So I went to get treatment at Thunderbird Treatment Center, because my niece and nephew never gave up on me. While getting treatment, I set goals for myself: One goal was to stay out of places that would set me back. The second goal was to go back to school and get an education, earning my high school diploma in 2016 at Renton Technical College, paid for by Goodwill, and took college classes at the UW. The third goal was to get a job and be part of society again. I applied for a job at the University of Washington in the building services department. Gene Woodard gave me a second chance. I’ve been working at the University for six years now.

I’m telling my story because maybe someone out there could feel me. Please don’t give up, keep your head up, and pray to a higher power greater than yourself.