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        So check this out; me and my girlfriend Nicole went to go see the Amy Schumer comedy show in Pittsburgh. But before the show we were in the car talking about how I did not have many family ties in Pittsburgh or anywhere because I went through foster care. In reality I don’t have strong connections with my family so I could virtually travel anywhere. However, with her she would not really want to travel far away or for a long time because of her family. But me being corny and cheesy, I explained to her that I am not going anywhere without her. However, the experience you can gain while traveling is something I always wanted to gain.

      So now me and my girlfriend Nicole are walking to our seats to watch the show until I recognized a familiar face. A face that I seen a million times; a face that helped me a million times; a face that got me out of trouble a million times; a face that has been there. The face I seen was a caseworker from the county that I belonged to. The thing with this specific caseworker was that he never actually handled my case. He was just always around; outside of the “systems culture”. The first time I met Will, was during my freshmen year after one of my basketball games. He knew my situation but never actually mentioned it to me. However, we talked about the game and some things I could do to get better as a player. Will continued to come and watch me play and we will discuss each game. Our relationship soon grew better and I eventually learned that he was a caseworker in my County as he learned more about me. Being able to connect to an honest secured source inside of the system helped me a lot in different aspects of life. Not only being a mentor, Will helped me get a tuxedo for prom or anything else that I needed for school. Will made sure I had something for christmas instead of a cheap camo coat I get from the system every year. Will actually cared what happened to me and where my life was going. However, after I turned 21 and emancipated from the system, I started to cut ties because I really did not want anything to do with it anymore. I actually grew mad at the system because of bad experience I received from majority of the people that dealt with my case.

       The limbo effect that I experienced was not having an actual steady home to go; I bounced from foster homes to dorm rooms, and than to independent living programs. The feeling after I emancipated was the as if I graduated from boot camp. I say this because of the constant battle of having to prove my worthiness in every place that I lived in. Having to prove that I deserved to be somewhere but never staying in one place made me an independent person. Becoming more and more independent, I learned that taking care of yourself is the most important thing to do. This is because if you can not take care of yourself; how can you take care of other people? Nevertheless, a negative thing that I learned from my independence is that everyone do not treat people fair. Realizing this is what grew my interest to pursue Human Resource management as a career path. So I can personally have an effect on how people are treated in an occupational setting.

          The night at the Console Center, Will asked me what I was going to do for the summer and I replied with a short answer and said just hooping and working; not really wanting to talk or interested in the conversation. Will started to mention foster club and how it could help me with my major and how it will boost my resume. Not really being interested, I started to explain how I wanted to just prepare for the upcoming basketball season. However in reality I really was not interested in revisiting flashbacks of past experiences I had while in foster care. So I eventually talked my way out of the conversation. After the show I realized that Will was still keeping tabs on me because I never told him what I was majoring in while in college. This made me think of how cold I have been towards him because of grief that I was still dealing with. I researched foster club and the all star program to learn of the great things that take place inside of it. The opportunity to be able to fly across the country visiting different states and growing skills that will help me in an occupational setting made me interested. However, being able fix something that I had a negative experience with made me wanting to go.

       Now going into my fifth week as an all-star, I experienced and overcame things that I would have never thought I could encounter! Since becoming an all-star I learned how to actually own my story and use it to advocate for foster youth across the Nation. Before I was able to make it to that point in my life, I went through challenging work shops with people that experienced the same struggle with the system as I did; just with a different story. Discussing our personal stories and learning what skills it takes to be a young leader made each of us ready to be advocated for foster youth across the country. I was fortunate enough to participate in two workshops so far. During both workshops, our all-star team ran into troubles on the road. Some problems we encountered dealt with traveling, food, money, and time. However, each workshop was a success in my eyes because we rolled with the punches. Even though everything behind the curtains was falling apart and maybe on fire at a certain point; we still completed each workshop with success.

          Living with people that knows your whole life inside and out really teaches you how to trust and rely on one another. Not only growing skills that are needed inside of an organization, but being able to grow as a person as well helped me fully grasp the experience as an all-star. Being able to know that I am making lifelong friends and while fixing what cost majority of us pain makes me eager to experience more. Having this in mind makes me pumped to live out the last weeks as an all star intern with my new family!

Jul 1, 2016 By John LeGrande