Read below to see one former foster child’s experience of Thanksgiving. To see her full blog check out http://www.wendyslookbook.com/2011/11/thankful-foster-care-universities/. Just some background information; her name is Wendy Nguyen, she graduated from college with her Bachelors in Psychology, and she is active both in the fashion industry and juvenile justice. She has worked with the homeless, underprivileged youth in the public school system, and juvenile delinquents.
Thanksgiving is quite emotional for me. I have a lot to be thankful for. I feel incredibly blessed in life. If you asked me in high school what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would have said I wanted to be alive. Not a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant… I just wanted to live. Growing up in foster care was interesting. My social worker told me when we first met that 30% of foster youths become homeless, 30% incarcerated, 30% pregnant, and of the 10% only about 5% go to college. After hearing the statistics, I desperately wanted to be in the 5%. To be honest with you, I was set on college not because I wanted to pursue higher education. I wanted to go because I didn’t want to be homeless. I needed housing. I heard about this magical place called “dormitories” where young people can live if they went to school there. So I decided to work as much as I could to save up just in case I got into one of these dorms. From 5:30 – 7:30 am, I was in the school cafeteria with the lunch ladies making burritos and sandwiches (I was very fast at making those!), went to school after work, off to my second job as a math tutor after school, and on the weekends, worked at Jamba Juice (and just in case you’re wondering, all of their fruits are fresh and they do have a secret menu). Then college applications came around. I remember sitting in Civics class filing out the application when a few classmates teased me saying, “why don’t you apply to Berkeley.” I had one space left in the application and thought… ok whatever. I’ll just fill it in. I’m truly grateful for that uncomfortable encounter. UC Berkeley was the only semester school in the University of California system with a start date in late August. All of the other universities were on quarter systems with start dates in late September. My birthday is August 28. UC Berkeley’s first day of school that year was August 28. I literally went straight from foster care to college on the same day. If I got accepted into any other school, I wouldn’t have had a place to live from my 18th birthday to late September. When you’re in the foster system, you have to leave the foster home on your 18th birthday with or without transitional housing, because there is another girl waiting to take your spot.
I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful to be alive, for my foster care experience because it made me who I am today, for my friends who I call family, my brother, and my dear boyfriend. And I’m incredibly thankful that you’re on this journey with me. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU so much for your support and Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story. Boone County CASA wishes Wendy and everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. May we be thankful for the families and affections we have, and may we keep those lacking these basic supports in our hearts.
To see the official CASA website visit us at www.boonecountycasa.org.