DHS honors students who beat the odds

PHILADELPHIA - August 17, 2011

According to DHS, approximately 500 young men and women in Philadelphia age out of foster care and must prepare to live on their own.

The young people have lived with tremendous obstacles, and Wednesday, they were recognized for overcoming them.

"I knew I had determination, and I just knew I had to be something much more than I what I saw," said Kierra Solomon.

DHS's Achieving Independence Center held what it called the Backpack Challenge at Temple University's Kiva Auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

It was a celebration of academic achievement and backpack give-a-way, but it was also about so much more.

"I was told many times I wouldn't succeed, that I would end up on welfare," said Kierra. "So I'm proud to say I recently graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor's Degree in Broadcasting."

Without a strong support system, young men and women, leaving foster care are more likely to experience unemployment, dependency on public assistance and homelessness, but more than 100 of the 16 to 21 year olds have achieved beyond even their own expectations.

"I understand what that feels like," said Edward Cheeseborough. "Sometimes I too feel that way. Even though we're in foster care doesn't mean out goals are limited. We just have to work harder for it than everyone else."

"I feel like our success in social care and foster care comes from whenever we can actually celebrate youth doing great things," says Allison Moore.

Joseph Trout felt he was trapped in an unproductive life when he was taken away from his home at an early age.

"Foster care is not the end of the world," said Joseph Trout. "And although a lot of people can feel derailed after being taken from their home, they have to understand that there will be an end; a way out, and their life will become their life again."

This year, 138 member of DHS's Achieving Independence Center have graduated high school, and more than 80 will attend their first year of college or post secondary school.

It demonstrates that with the proper support and role models, any child can achieve their goals.

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