Celebrating our Graduates

One of my favorite JFS events usually happens every June – our celebration for kids in foster care who graduate from high school. We make quite a big event out of it since it’s such an achievement for many of these kids.

This year would have marked our 21st annual Celebration of Dreams. We were preparing to host the graduates and their supporters at the Hilton downtown in the beautiful Hall of Mirrors. Unfortunately, the coronavirus changed those plans. But it cannot change the importance of this achievement or diminish the pride I have in this group of 2020 graduates. More than 50 teens earned their diplomas in this unusual year.

Finishing high school can be tough anyway. But these students have significant hurdles to overcome. They dealt with abuse or neglect, removal from their families, often multiple placement changes which mean school changes too. Add those things on top of the usual challenges of navigating high school and you can see why roughly 60 percent of teens in foster care don’t make it to graduation.

But these grads did make it. They persevered through it all and earned their diplomas.

Some will head off to college soon. Several have academic and athletic scholarships. Some already have started their trade-school training. Others are already working. I hope that whatever their next step, they know they already have achieved so much.

We can’t throw a party at the Hilton, but we won’t let COVID-19 stop us from celebrating them. We don’t want to give away details just yet, but we will be honoring them. We wouldn’t miss the chance to let them know we’re very proud.

Tim McCartney, interim director