At this point, I have already participated in two conferences: Oregon and California!! I'm excited because I had a blast at both conferences.
The Oregon conference was my first and I think that I can speak for all of the All Stars (past and present) when I say that you never forget your first conference. Training helped to prepare us for what to expect, but I've come to realize that experience is certainly the best teacher. Oregon was a fantastic introduction to life as an All Star! The conference was spectacular and I have some memories that I won't forget!
I'm glad that I got my "feet wet" at the Oregon conference because I was so much more comfortable "diving in" once we got to California. The conference was nothing short of Amazing! The activities were fun and everyone knew that they wanted to be apart of the PINK TRIBE!!! (You had to be there to understand!). lol.
One thing that I noticed was that the youth at both conferences were very different. But aside from focusing on the differences between the two groups, I noticed that all of the youth that I interacted with were youth who just wanted to have fun.
I think that often times, foster kids have to grow up too fast. We are forced to deal with "grown up" issues when we are just kids our self. We deal with issues of abuse, and neglect. We have to work and take care of ourselves and sometimes our siblings. We worry about our bio families and worry about fitting in with our foster families. We face depression and low self esteem and most of us feel as if we are going through all of this drama by ourselves (even if we have good people in our lives). Not to mention that these issues don't even scratch the surface when it comes to living the life of a foster kid.
So as an All Star, I really focus on allowing the youth to have fun in a safe learning environment. Our activities are constructed to encourage critical thinking, life skills, teamwork, trust, etc. In addition, they are designed for youth to have fun in the process. It is just as simple as that. During our workshops, we give out helpful info on how foster youth can relate to their bio families, how to share their foster care experiences in a productive way, and even tips on how to transition out of the foster care system successfully. Also, we give youth the opportunity to share their stories in our workshops. For many, it may be the first time that they are around other people who have shared similar experiences and who are also willing to listen to whatever is is that they have to say. This is one of the most rewarding parts of being an All Star. Just being an ear to a youth who wants to open up and talk.
I know that I can't change the world, but I am on a mission to help as many people that I possibly can while I'm here. Working with youth in foster care has developed into a passion for me. I now want to do whatever it takes to make sure that we all succeed in life!
In short, I LOVE BEING AN ALL STAR!
Next stop: Tennessee (Children Defense Fund Conference!!!)
And Next: New Mexico!