From Cambridge to College

SAM_FTFThis is an original work submitted to Children’s Rights by foster care alum, Samanthya, for our Fostering the Future campaign. Learn more about #FosterMyEducation here.

I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything when I grew up. I am the biological daughter of a bank-robbing meth addict. I didn’t think there was much for me beyond the trailer park life. That all changed when I became a second-generation foster child on June 20, 2002.

By the time I started sixth grade, I was officially placed with my elementary school librarian and her husband. They had begun intentionally spending time with me when the school recognized that my family needed extra support, even before I was in foster care. I had always loved to read and was quite good at it. I spent many afternoons with her dusting the shelves and scanning in returned books.

For the first time in my life, I had parents who were reading to me at night. For the first time, I had parents who were helping me finish my homework, sewing a costume for the school musical, and throwing birthday parties for me. Most importantly, for the first time, I had parents who told me I would be going to college and that I had a future I could look forward to.

In middle school, I fell in love with the movie Legally Blonde. I just watched it on repeat. I loved everything about it from the love story, to seeing Elle Woods rise to the top of her class and challenging herself to exceed even her own expectations. My foster parents recognized my obsession with this movie and ran with it.

The following summer, they took me on a family vacation to Boston. We were able to see so much, but my favorite thing was getting to see Harvard University, the school that Elle Woods attended. To be there, walking around the campus, seeing students studying, allowed me to really see it was possible for me to go to college.

Having foster parents that not only told me, but showed me that I was capable of going to college, and finding a positive female role model in the media through Elle Woods, put me on a trajectory toward a strong academic future.

Although I did not pursue a law degree, I did earn a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication: Public Relations from Grand View University in 2013, and a Master’s of Public Administration: Public Policy from Drake University in 2016, all before I turned 25.

After aging out of foster care at 18, I chose to move from Ames to Des Moines for college, so I could access the financial aid and Aftercare program that were available to me only if I stayed in Iowa. Little did I know how much of an impact staying would have on me. A couple that led a college ministry on campus helped me move into my dorm when I didn’t have parents there. I started attending their church and was adopted August 12, 2010, by one of the pastors at Walnut Creek Church. Less than a year after I moved into college, I was blessed with a forever family.

I, like many of my classmates at Grand View University, began college as a nursing major, but was no longer able to pursue it after I was rear-ended by a drunk driver at the end of my freshman year. When I had to choose a new major, my adoptive parents helped me pick one that would not only highlight some of my natural abilities, but would also help me become a better advocate for child welfare. Because of the unending support from my middle school foster parents and my adoptive parents, I was able to graduate on time, despite the car accident.

While I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I just started as the Education Center Assistant at St. Vincent de Paul of Des Moines in March. Not only do I have the opportunity to teach a variety of classes in this role, but I also get to engage one-on-one with people and support them in their educational goals. Although I am not working specifically with participants that are child welfare-involved, as I do in my role as a Young Fellow with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, my personal and professional experiences have prepared me well for this role.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education. The conversations that my foster parents started when I was 12 still play in my mind from time to time. I’ll never forget walking around in Cambridge and I’ll never forget how my access to education has impacted my life.

Published on May 15, 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.