In February we stood like nervous parents, waving until the car was out of sight as one of our teens aged out and moved on. Bound for an extended foster care program and then independent living in his first apartment, this young man exceeded all our expectations as he became the first teen at A Kid’s Place to earn both his GED and learner’s permit as well as find a job and begin working.  The teen years are full of uncertainty, but for those in foster care it lends itself to a certain fearfulness of the freedom that so many young adults fight for.  The safety net is much smaller for foster teens, and we hope that what we instill in them is enough to give them a firm foundation to build a life upon.  This young man, who we so proudly waved out of the parking lot, took advantage of every experience that A Kid’s Place offered him; Independent Living classes, extended learning programs, and mentoring opportunities.  His determination to succeed was phenomenal and we found ourselves rooting for him at every turn.  The day he drove into the parking lot with his driving instructor we stood at the front door and clapped; his blushing thanks was all we needed.  When several months later he proudly threw the front doors open and held his GED diploma in the air we took turns hugging and congratulating him, but his response was more than we bargained for.  “You’re awesome,” we told him, and he teared up as he told us that no one, not even his own mother, had ever told him that before.  Never turn down an opportunity to build someone up, to support someone who might need a helping hand, and tell a child (no matter what age you believe a child to be) how awesome he or she is.  These children are our future, and we have a fleeting chance to make a difference in their lives.  It’s not your past or what you’ve gone through that defines you.  It’s what you do after that time that defines who you are.

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