The Power of the Village
Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to meet a slew of incredible foster youth and former foster youth. Young people who are beating the ugly statistics of outcomes for foster youth.
Take a closer look at this infographic from Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative of foster youth who age out and you can see:
Less than 3% will graduate college
71% of young women who were in foster will become pregnant by age 21
One in five will become homeless after aging out.
So, I can’t help but wonder when I meet these incredible alumni of the foster care system who are doing so well: What was it that helped you beat these numbers? What made the difference for you?
Looking at my peers and asking this question makes me ponder the question myself. What made the difference for me?
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
Today, I am a senior in college preparing to graduate in May and make my footprint in the world. But, what was it that helped me get here?
Have you ever heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” ?
I’d be a fool to say I did it on my own. Yes, I may not have had as much help as many others, but it was truly the help and support from my village.
The People of The Village
When I look back, I am so thankful for the people I was surrounded by. People who all served as as a mentor to me in some way; a trusted adviser or guide. People who helped me to be a better person. People who saw potential in me and called it out. People who inspired me and encouraged me to grow. A few of these people include:
I was the kid in class who was always being told to be quiet. Being the loud, disruptive and ornery kid at school is not what every teacher is hoping for. Luckily, I had more than one amazing teachers who were patient, kind and attentive to my loud, disruptive and ornery self. These teachers encouraged my strengths, pushed me to be better and gave me the extra bit of attention I needed.
Coaches and Advisers
I was also the kid who wanted to be a part of every extra curricular: girl scouts, softball, cheerleading, student council, and so on and so forth. The coaches and advisers I had taught me a great deal about being on a team and working hard.
I will never forget my teachers and coaches who were so encouraging and supportive. I am so thankful to have had somebody there rooting me on. That make such a big difference for any kid, but especially for a foster kid.
The friends I met through school and especially through being involved in extracurriculars made such a huge impact in my life. I look back and feel blessed to have had such funny, smart and kind hearted friends. Friends who helped me get through tough times and were always there to listen. Friends who inspired me to be better and do more.
Like I said, many of my friends I met through being involved in extracurriculars. I met so many, so, so, so many incredible families, too. I can’t even count the number of times my friends parents opened their doors to have me over for days at a time, gave me a ride home, or give me amazing advice as if I was their own child.
When I talk to foster youth alumni and hear their stories, there’s typically a couple people who always stand out. People who took time to invest in a foster youth through their encouragement and support, people who served as mentors for them.
If you’re in foster care, take a look around you. What opportunities are there for you to find your tribe? What interests you? What inspires you? Who inspires you? Is it a teacher or a friend?
There’s so much power in finding somebody to mentor you, to be a trusted counselor and guide. A great way to find these kind of people is by joining extracurricular activities. Getting involved was a major key to success for me.
Check out this article by Youth Law on all of the positives of extracurriculars.