More than 30 young people who persevered through child abuse and neglect, foster care, school changes and many other obstacles to graduate high school will be recognized Thursday night at the community’s 19th annual Celebration of Dreams event.
Celebration of Dreams, hosted by Hamilton County Job and Family Services, honors graduating foster youth still in the custody of the agency and thanks those who helped them get there: caseworkers, mentors, court-appointed special advocates and guardians ad litem.
This year’s event will be held at 5:30 p.m. June 7 at The Phoenix in downtown Cincinnati. The celebration includes semi-formal dress, a dinner, speakers, music, certificates of achievement and gifts for the graduates. The event will feature a movie theme as the 32 graduating foster youth prepare to be stars in the film called “Life.”
• Makaylah Moll, who graduated from Norwood High School, has already completed two years at the University of Cincinnati while she was in high school. She hopes to be surgeon one day.
• Minyaiah Woods graduated from Dohn High School and gave a valedictorian address at her graduation. She is thinking about enlisting in the military or enrolling in college to study business. She is an amazing cook whose favorite dish right now is baked taco salad.
• Josiah McVey is already an accomplished photographer, but he plans to go to the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina, where he wants to train to join the crew of a NASCAR racing team. His foster family also plans to adopt him.
• Cameron Sears graduated from Cincinnati Job Corps. He is focused on doing whatever he can to take care of his 1-year-old son, Luca, and his fiancé.
“This is a small reward for the great deal of hard work these young people have put forth to earn their diplomas,” said Moira Weir, director of the Hamilton County Job and Family Services. “They deserve something nice to mark this wonderful achievement.
“They have proven they can overcome great odds. They’ll need that same resiliency; many will transition into adulthood on their own, without a support system. But before they do, we are going to have a party to show them how proud we are. And, they’ll receive one last message: this is not just an end, but a beginning. Draw on your experience and resiliency to conquer the mountains of your future.”
This year’s speaker has something in common with them. Tim Arnold grew up poor and got in trouble as a juvenile. He knew how difficult it was to stay off the streets without a job, but finding consistent work was difficult with a troubled background. He started Lawn Life in 2008 and has employed more than 700 at-risk youth. The landscaping company provides youth with real work experience, a fair wage and transferrable skills.
On Thursday, he will speak to a group of teens who have overcome abuse, neglect, separation from family and friends and many other hurdles to graduate high school. They all have grand plans to be a “star” as they enter their next life phase. He’ll encourage them to chase their dream.
Hamilton County Job and Family Services currently cares for about 1,200 foster children a day and has more than 400 children available for adoption. Local residents interested in adopting or becoming a foster parent can call 632-6366 or visit www.hckids.org for more information. Those wishing to support foster youth financially can donate to the FAMILY Fund, www.hcjfs.org/familyfund .
About Hamilton County Job and Family Services
Hamilton County Job and Family Services administers federal, state and local programs for those in need. The Department helps with local child protection, elderly protection, child care, child support enforcement, workforce development, cash assistance, food assistance and Medicaid disbursement. Servicing Hamilton County since 1947, the Department helps hundreds of thousands each year and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation, an international, independent, not-for-profit child and family service accrediting organization. Learn more about the agency and its work at www.hcjfs.org, www.hckids.org, (foster care and adoption) or https://www.omj-cinham.org/ (employment opportunities), as well as on social media at Facebook (www.facebook.com/hcjfs), Twitter (www.twitter.com/hamiltoncojfs), Instagram (www.instagram.com/hamiltoncojfs), Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/hcjfs) and Linked in (https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/14788).