Cheers to new adventures and past experiences!
Along my journey I have gotten to meet some amazing people in the Oregon Child Welfare system and today I want to recognize them and thank them. Over the years much of my life was involved with the DHS system and while I did not have some of the best experiences I have gone on to experience another hard working, caring side of the Oregon foster care system. When you are in foster care so many people break promises and as a result you feel abandoned, it becomes so hard to see the good in what the system does for kids. As an alumni and an advocate I have gotten to see the good. I have gotten the chance to work along side some of the most dedicated people I know and because of that it has not only changed my perspective, but made me want to work even harder at helping other young people advocate for themselves and their peers. It’s important that decisions made about us are made with us and getting “us” to understand that can be difficult when we feel like we don’t have any control.
My involvement with FosterClub, DHS training and Oregon’s Youth Advisory Board (Oregon Foster Youth Connection) has taught me so much and truly has developed the advocate in me today. Through my involvement I have gained the control I once lacked, and I continue to “control” (so to speak) how I believe the foster care system should be involved in young peoples lives by continuing to stand up and speak out as well as empower my peers to use their voice and get involved. Foster youth are such an intricate part of the system it makes no sense for them to not be involved, but sometimes it takes work and dedication to get them to see why its important and how beneficial it can be for both them and the system when they are.
For me it has been nothing but beneficial, I have gained insight, experience, perspective, leadership, and the ability to network and publicly speak. I have formed countless relationships and obtained direction in my life as well as a means to carry out a passion I never knew I had. As young people from the foster care system we often lack the important people in our life to encourage us and stand by us when we are struggling, I was no different I lacked the support I needed from older wiser individuals or “supportive adults” as we call them at FosterClub. In my case those individuals came into my life after I spoke up and learned how to nurture such relationships. Looking back some of those people were already in my life, but I wasn’t brave enough or savvy enough to figure out how to let them in my inner circle while still living up to being independent, which is what is expected of you when you exit foster care. I now have several supportive adults I can call on whenever I need anything. It feels good to be able to say that, especially when I think about how hard it was to secure those supports. Gaining support from adults is not always an easy task for young people for many reasons and countless barriers, but when you finally get it, it is something to truly treasure. I am so thankful to all of the people who have supported me to get me to the stage I am at in my life today.
For the person who encouraged me to apply for the internship at FosterClub initially, that was my beginning and I will forever be changed from that experience. I am thankful for the forever family I have gained from being an All-Star (FosterClub intern) and I am overjoyed that the family continues to grow each year. As a result those are some of the most important people in my life today. For the director who is way to modest and hates to be recognized, you believed in me and created confidence and because of that all of these other doors were opened. If everyone could see the amount of work you do behind the scenes they would be in forever awe. For the administrators I have trained with, I have learned so much and will continue to thank you for the opportunity to train with professionals such as yourselves. I will always urge people who work with youth to make these opportunities available to more young people, because there is so much to be gained by both parties. For the two very important families that have stepped up to the plate in my life and taken me in as their own, you will never be able to understand the important role you play in my life, I am forever gracious. To my closest friends who I consider family, you have been my saving grace; you were present when others were not and I can never repay you for those moments. For my grandmother who is always an uplifting spirit and for my sister who growing up lived the struggle right by my side, I love you. For all of the talented and amazing young people I have been so fortunate to meet, you have enriched my life and I continue to do this work for you, my hope is that you will go forth and create amazing futures for yourselves, just as I have been blessed to do so. For the person who encouraged me to apply for this new position I am preparing to embark on, it was because you voiced that you saw something in me that I was able to see what you saw and propel forward, thank you for encouraging me.
With my new adventure just around the corner I am happy to set out and experience new territory and I am excited about the new things to be learned in this endeavor. As I am preparing for an exciting new chapter in my life it feels surreal to be leaving my home, Portland Oregon. For some reason I always thought that I would live here forever, despite how much I despise the rain. In my new journey I anticipate challenge, but in my opinion the best learning occurs though a good challenge. I welcome any feedback; Jewels of wisdom or pearls of advice to better prepare me in this life changing experience. While some consider this goodbye, to me this is far from goodbye; it’s more like see you later!