‘From Pom Poms to Prison’

Photo by Kurt Boxdorfer

ROCKWALL, TX (Jan. 27, 2015) The former cheerleader sat in the Rockwall County jail in 2001, wondering how she had gone from cheering at Friday night football games to sitting behind bars as Child Protective Services picked up her three children.

Flash forward to 2015, the ex-prison inmate is now a devout Christian, published author and passionate motivational speaker.

Susan DeFace Washington reflected on her life’s journey – from popular cheerleader at Skyline High School in Dallas, to convicted felon. “No one knew what I was facing at home after school daily,” she said. “After my brother took his life while our family was vacationing on July Fourth, my parents’ grief overcame the family I once knew.”

There were more trials ahead for the youngest child of three. Susan said her mother and father began to drink to drown out the grief. She was only 10 when the downward spiral began unraveling her family.

But at school, Susan excelled. As a cheerleader and an “A” student, she was loved by everyone. Money was not a problem for the DeFace family; Susan wore stylish clothes, drove a nice car, and hung out with the popular kids. To outsiders, it appeared as if Susan had everything. They didn’t know that as a young teen she would drive her mother to detox after many close calls.

In 1979, Susan’s high school graduation became a nightmare. Her parents were not there to cheer the honor roll senior across the stage. Angry when she arrived home, Susan yelled at her mother. The following morning, Susan found her mother’s body. Alcohol had won the battle – but, it would not win the war for the youngest DeFace child.

After graduation, Susan moved toWest Texasto live with her sister Kathey. For the first time in a long time, Susan had a secure and loving family. Sadly, tragedy would strike again when Kathey passed away from cancer on the same day Susan’s mother had 10 years before. And then Susan’s grandfather took his own life.

Distraught, but able to graduate from college with a degree in Education, Susan married and began a family of her own in the Rockwall area. But the long list of tragedies had taken a toll and soon, Susan was doing meth. As she described it, “It started out innocent enough with diet pills. I had energy and felt wonderful, but, the effect wore off and I began taking and manufacturing methamphetamines.”

If this were the end of the story it would be a tragic one. However, while others gave up on Susan, God did not. While in prison on drug charges, Susan began reading the Word of God and conducting Bible studies. Later she attended New Hope Christian Church in Wylie and met Pastor Keith Spurgin, who continued to lead Susan and her family to follow God’s Word.

While writing her book, “From Pom Poms to Prison,” Susan would face another horrific loss – the loss of her middle daughter, Alexis Rose, in an auto accident. This would be Susan’s greatest tragedy. However, because she was strong in her faith, tragedy turned into an opportunity for Susan to demonstrate her belief and strength in God.

On Susan’s website, pompomstoprison.com, Susan says, “When we’re in pain, we have a choice. We can walk in bitterness and self-pity…or we can walk in love and compassion. I choose to walk in love and compassion.”

Susan once sat behind bars wondering how she ended up there, and now she knows. She feels she was placed there and endured so much tragedy, so the life-long cheerleader could continue to cheer us on.

By Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Kristie Smith, a teacher for the blind, who writes about parenting and child development.  

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