Many of you have a desk that you sit in, at a school that you don’t want to attend, to study subjects that don’t seem to matter because you have more important things to worry about. You’re surrounded by students who get to go home at night to a bed they can call their own while you have a bunk that seven other kids have called “their own” in the last three months. You’re focused on your court date next week, wondering if your rights will be relinquished while your classmates are wondering how to convince their parents to let them go to a college party. Some of you, on the other hand, might be glad to be in school because for eight hours, the outside world can not harm or control you while you are in that desk that you can call your own for a brief while. Either way, these are legitimate feelings and no one can argue against you. You probably do not see the point in algebra homework since it won’t help subtract your traumas or add happiness to your life. When you yourself have continually been forgotten, it seems pointless to try and remember historic figures. Many people may look down on you and claim you use your difficulties to gain attention. Some may pity you, but very few seem to genuinely understand. Do any of these thoughts resound with you? These feelings can lead many to consider failing out, dropping out, or just letting life consume you so that you are unable to finish school. Some of you are just showing face so your social work agency will check the box complete, but you have every intention of pushing academics aside once you no longer answer to them. However, before you decide against academics, I want you to consider the purpose and potential behind educational institutions. Let us discuss the power that academics can give you and why these moments in school now are so important!
The day you entered the foster care system, the numbers became pitted against you. You are two times more likely to be absent from school than average students. Furthermore, you are two times more likely to receive out of school suspension and three times more likely to get expelled than average students. (National Working Group 2014) Only 50% of foster youth graduate from high school at the age of eighteen (National Working Group 2014) compared to the 72% of average high school students in the population (EPERC 2011). But why? Why are the numbers against you? As discussed earlier, foster youth who have been placed in the system have likely suffered far more traumas than the average American teenager. Many of the traumas are not even documented, but you still must live with them all the same and somehow try to continue as if everything is alright. Even considering this, the numbers you have heard again and again remain the same; you are less likely to graduate high school than average American teenagers simply because you were placed in foster care.
So why bother trying? The statistics obviously point out that the odds are not in your favor. If we must look at the bad numbers however, we should look at the good numbers too.
College Board: Median Earnings and Tax Payments of Full-Time Year-Round Workers Ages 25 and Older, by Education Level, 2011
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), all persons who graduate high school make approximately $10,500 more than those who are high school dropouts. Over the course of your life, this number exceeds well over half a million dollars. You are MORE likely to get a better job and, furthermore, you are LESS likely to face unemployment than those who do not have a high school degree. (Advanced Academics) Aside from providing better financial stability and security, obtaining a high school degree immediately opens doors for better career opportunities. High school drop outs are limited to a very small range of employment options, but the moment you receive your diploma, you suddenly have the chance to attend a technical school, community college, trade school, university, or join the military. By age 21, only 67% of foster youth had received a high school diploma or GED. (NYTD Survey 2015) This may be less than the general population, but this means that of the approximate 20,000 foster youth who age out of the system every year, 13,400 receive a high school diploma by the age of 21! You are not alone! Others have done it and you can too!
Getting your diploma is not just a check off your list, but it allows you the chance to dream of something bigger for yourself. You are just as good as every other student sitting in that classroom. Find something you are passionate about and dream big because you deserve it, you are worth it, you CAN do it. Work through those long algebra problems, read about historic figures and do your very best so that you can hold your high school diploma proudly. Do it because you are not a number on every census and survey that you have seen on foster youth, but because you are a student who deserves a chance at greatness just as any other does.
Jeremiah’s Promise holds true to their mission to “Love, challenge and equip" foster children with tools to achieve success. Through participation in their Next Step isoBLOGS, youth can address missing components in their life and work toward healing, growth and furthering their success. http://www.jeremiahspromise.org/
Advanced Academics. (n.d.). The Top 10 Reasons to Get Your High School Diploma. Retrieved from http://www.academicsonline.com/10reasons.html
College Board. (2013). Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. Retrieved from http://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/education-pays-2013-full-report.pdf
Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. (2011, June). Education Week: Individualized Graduation Reports Issued for All 50 States and D.C. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/media/diplomascount2011_pressrelease.pdf
National Working Group on Foster Care and Education. (2014, January). Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care. Retrieved from http://cdn.fc2success.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/National-Fact-Sheet-on-the-Educational-Outcomes-of-Children-in-Foster-Care-Jan-2014.pdf
National Youth in Transition Database. (2016, November). Highlights from the NYTD Survey: Outcomes reported by young people ages, 17, 19, and 21. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/nytd-data-brief-5
United States Census Bureau. (2011, September). Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-14.pdf
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”