Life can be tough for kids graduating out of Georgia’s foster care system. Only half graduate from high school, and only a tenth enroll in college. Many become homeless. It’s important to work to improve the situation. It’s also important to recognize the significant achievements of many of the children in foster care.
The annual Celebration of Excellence celebrates the educational achievements of youth in Georgia’s foster care system graduating from high school, GED programs, college, or vocational school. This year a dozen UUCA were inspired to help out with the event, held on June 26 at the Georgia State Rialto Theater.
Carol Jordan and Lisa Guyton were among the bus chaperones. Lisa
remembers the event this way,
I had a really great time. It was inspiring to see all of these young people achieve a significant goal.
I was a little nervous about being a bus chaperone. Would the students be rowdy or hard to manage? Would I remember what to do?
All went well and I had a lovely time talking to the youth and to the adult mentors riding on the bus. I thought the welcoming carpet with photos and drumming was so festive and exciting for the students. I could tell by their beaming faces that they really did feel good at that moment. I stayed for the beginning of the program. The entertainment and speakers were excellent. I can tell that the organizers put a lot of effort into making this a memorable night for the students.
Carol writes that she was also a bus chaperone, and enjoyed meeting and talking with some of the students who were being recognized.
A gal grad said she was joining the Army. I asked if she had already enlisted. No, she was going to college first. I said it might be that college would lead to a different path. She said I know, but write down on the card that I’m going to college and the Army. The “card” is what they wanted the emcee to read as they accepted their certificates of excellence on stage. One fellow whose card said G.E.D. had also written down valedictorian.
The buses left late (from hotel near the airport), amidst confusion, and we got mired in traffic. The kids had been waiting around since 4:30 and it was now almost 6:30 arriving at the Rialto. Grumps quickly turned to smiles as the beat of drums and energy of the gathered crowd beckoned the kids down the red carpet, cameras flashing.
We observed the evening program for a short time. One of the introductory speakers, a leader within the state “system,” eloquently handed these now young adults both a moving tribute and the mantle of role model and mentor going forward.
It was great to meet the folks from Big Bethel AME Church, but especially to get to know some of my fellow UUCAers a little better.