On June 9, the 17th annual Celebration of Dreams event will be held at 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The event is a semi-formal celebration for the foster children in our care who have graduated high school this year.
For many, graduation was no certainty: they have been separated from their biological families, neighborhoods and schools and experienced a great number of stressful situations. They have overcome tremendous obstacles to get their diplomas and that deserves to be celebrated.
June 9 will be spent honoring them for their hard work and thanking those who have helped them along the way — caseworkers, mentors, court-appointed special advocates and guardian ad litems. The celebration includes semi-formal dress, a dinner, an inspirational speaker and rapper, music, certificates of achievement and gifts for the graduates.
While we congratulate them for their achievement, we will also point out that this is not an end, but a beginning for them. The rest of their lives lie ahead, and this is their chance to reinvent themselves and dream big. In fact, the theme of our event is “The movie of your life is just beginning – be the star!”
That gets me thinking on a saying that should have deep meaning for these young people: It is not about where you come from, it is about where you are going. This is so true for these young people. They have all come from tough experiences – abuse and neglect that was to such a level they were placed in the child welfare system. But that does not have to define them; it does not have to be their legacy.
They have already shown great perseverance in succeeding where many of their peers failed. That determination and mettle that helped them overcome can become what allows them to reach great heights in adulthood. Their past shapes them for the mission ahead. And it is a difficult mission: foster children who age out of the system are more likely to be homeless, to end up incarcerated, to become a teen parent and to fall victim to a host of other social issues.
But they are also more likely to drop out of high school. And these young people did not let that statistic envelop them. Whatever they possess that allowed them to overcome, they carry it with them as they move forward in life.