My Only Way Out

By Nyeelah Inniss

It’s 4:30 a.m. and I am getting ready for a 20-minute walk and 2-hour bus and train ride to get to school on time. It’s the last semester of my senior year. I just turned 18 and was reunified with my father as part of my transition from foster care. The schools in my dad’s district were on a different system than my former schools, meaning if I went there I would be graduating high school a year later. I convinced my dad to use my god mom’s address to attend a school I had gone to in the past, which was in another county.

Commuting to school started to wear on me. The feeling of being unwanted and unloved began to drain me as well. I felt that, in my dad’s eyes, being 18 meant I was an adult who could take care of myself with little to no help. Yet I was still a kid yearning for the love and support of a parent, and I just wasn’t getting it. I stopped going to school some days, or would forget to turn in my homework, and just gave up.

The turning point came when my teachers wanted to have a parent-teacher conference. I was close to them and had been a good student, so they didn’t understand why I was doing so poorly. I was going through a lot at this stage, and found it hard to express myself, which my teachers took as not caring anymore and having an attitude. I told my dad about the conference several times. He didn’t come, but my grandmother did.

Once my grandma explained my situation, I finally revealed my struggles, and my teachers collaborated to ensure I would graduate. I eventually moved in with my grandmother, who dropped me off at school every morning. My teachers gave me makeup assignments, extra credit and tutorials to boost my grades. Thanks to them and my grandmother, I graduated high school on time. This was truly amazing because too often girls like me end up in jail or pregnant.

So what was next? College! I was so excited because not only did it promise a better future but also a great present. Still, though I went on a few college tours, I wasn’t as prepared for my new life as I thought. In foster care, I was told when to eat, sleep and use the bathroom. Being on a college campus with complete freedom was a rough transition because I didn’t know how to manage my time, balance social and academic life, and much more.

I also had to cope with severe depression. I had been prescribed medication but didn’t like how it made me feel, so I worked with my psychiatrist to wean me off of it. But I didn’t have a Plan B. Slowly but steadily I dug myself into a hole. I stopped going to class and isolated myself in my room, or would party my sorrows away. By the end of freshman year, I was on academic probation and lost state funding. It felt like a rewind of high school.

I went to a community college, boosted my GPA, and I joined Georgia EmpowerMEnt, a statewide organization made up of former and current foster youth. I am currently the lead advocate of Georgia EmpowerMEnt’s education subcommittee. In that role, I have created College Survival Guide workshops that give youth in foster care tools and information to prepare and transition to post-secondary education. My purpose in creating these workshops is to help youth in care avoid the mistakes I made when it came to my education.

Now I am back at a university and will graduate with my bachelor’s in sociology May 2018. Hopefully, my story can inspire other young people in care. I want to let you know that no matter what obstacles stand in your way, success is always in your grasp and in your control.

Published on May 8, 2017 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.