Guest post by client Dan Scott. Like many children, Dan aged out of foster care without a support network. When he did not graduate high school with the rest of his class, he found Eckerd Achievement Academy where he found the help he needed to succeed.
Many people think living on your own is easy, but I can tell you it’s not. At just eighteen, I was still a junior in high school when it was time for me to age out of foster care and to live on my own. I faced many struggles that first year living alone. I no longer had that structure that I was used to when I was still with my foster mom. Most of the obstacles I faced were with school. I was so used to someone else being my alarm clock: telling me every morning to wake up and get moving.
Without that structure, I began to lose focus. My friends constantly wanted to come over; it’s hard to say no when you’re the only one in school who has their own place and everyone wants to hang out with you. I forgot what was important − my education. It took me not graduating with my class to realize that something had to change.
I reached out to Ms. Kelli Stocker, a special guidance counselor for kids in foster care. Ms. Stocker offered me various adult education programs in the community, but I wanted a more structured learning environment, so I chose Connected by 25 (now Eckerd Kids’ Fostering Education Initiative).
While focusing on my GED, I struggled with the different subjects I had to pass, and at times I wanted to give up. The one-on-one support I received from my instructors Mr. Mark and Ms. Collette provided me enough encouragement to keep on going. They were patient and supported my decision to take each section of the GED test individually, allowing me to work at my own pace. I never felt pressured to meet a deadline; they supported my unique goals, and I’m grateful for that.
While with Eckerd, staff not only focused on education but also on building life skills that could help you be successful outside of the classroom. Our class participated in cultural events such as attending theater productions, learning the art of bucket drumming and visiting museums. We also dipped into a piece of the history of Tampa Bay by participating in a tour of Ybor City.
Today I am proud to say I accomplished my GED. I graduated last June, and now I’m enrolled at Hillsborough Community College where I’m seeking my EMT certification so I can become a firefighter. I can truly say that none of this would have been possible without an educational program such as this one. Thank you to everyone at the Fostering Education Initiative, and to other foster children out there I say, “IT CAN BE DONE!”