I have attempted to keep my writing separate from my work, but this week, my professional career and personal journey of transformation blended.
This week, we conducted a week-long conference and inducted new Scholars (former foster youth) into the Columbus State Scholar Network. We have nearly 20 students this semester! Yesterday, Columbus State Community College also hosted the first State-wide College Retreat coordinated by William Murray IV and Ohio Reach.
Ohio Reach improves post-secondary outcomes for foster care youth and alumni through leadership, empowerment, advocacy, research and networking (L.E.A.R.N.)
Thanks to William Murray IV, Ohio Reach had six colleges in attendance including Clark State, Cincinnati State, Ohio University, Central State University, Columbus State, and Cuyahoga Community College.
In my own words….
Yesterday, I was honored to speak about practicing self-care while also sharing my story as a former foster youth. Self-care is so important….there have been times that I wanted to give up but did not because I implemented practices in my life that sustained me and kept me on the right track. I focused on meditation and journaling as key ways to cope with stress. I shared specifically about my journey, not just my life in foster care. I spoke of my desire to reconcile with my biological mother and the day I introduced her to my son. I shared about my emotional path from hate to love, and ultimately about the process of developing empathy and unconditional love for my mother- who died in 2014 from brain cancer.
As I opened my heart to future leaders, I felt this amazing energy in the room and it propelled me to push through to be open and vulnerable about my journey of transformation and impact.
Over the course of my life, I never once imagined I would be working in Higher Education – and I never ever thought I would be supporting foster youth. I always ran from my identity as a foster youth. I wanted to be more than a foster kid & I believed that I would be the one person in my family to change to cycle of abuse. And when I had an unplanned pregnancy….so much of my fear and denial made me come face to face with my past; I made a promise to myself to build a better future for my son and I.
So here I am…
I am blessed to be a collaborative partner in growing the next generation of foster youth into scholar leaders; I seek to cultivate a culture of mindfulness so they can make their dreams a reality!
Today’s retreat was a reminder that no matter life’s barriers and obstacles, we can all aim higher via education, reflection and action. All of the speakers focused on moving forward, purposefully! Speakers for the College Retreat also included, Genesis Shine and Nikki Chin (Columbus State Scholars), Rayshawn L. Wilson, “LionHeart,” and Dr. Stephanie Krah (Central State). All of the students also received 10 Ways Anyone can Graduate from College Debt-free, by Kevin Brown (former foster youth), Amazon Fire tablet and a twin-sized quilt from My Very Own Blanket.
FINALLY, I am so incredibly thankful to be a member of the Scholar Movement that is spreading across Ohio!