Nearly 50 young people who persevered through child abuse, foster care and other life challenges to achieve their high school diplomas will celebrate their success Thursday night at the 18th annual Celebration of Dreams event.
This year’s event will be held at 5:30 p.m. June 8 at The Phoenix in downtown Cincinnati. 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 guardian ad litems.
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 48 graduating foster youth prepare to be stars in the film called “Life.”
• Taylor France won a recent horse show at Diamond Oaks and hopes to join the University of Cincinnati equestrian team.
• Megan Bounds studied welding at Butler Tech to share careers with her dad, who passed away at a young age. She now plans to attend Northern Kentucky University.
• MeKaisha Jones, who will soon have a baby boy, plans to study marketing at the University of Cincinnati so she can make a good life for her child.
• Hailey Griggs is going to Ohio University and hopes to become a high school math teacher.
“For many, this will be the only graduation party they experience and they deserve something very nice to mark this momentous occasion,” said Moira Weir, director of the Hamilton County Job and Family Services. “But, while we are celebrating the end of their high school careers, we also recognize this is the beginning of their adult lives and we want to make sure they understand there are still mountains to climb and victories to celebrate.
“Their resiliency is remarkable; they have already proven they can overcome great odds. That will be a needed attribute as they transition into adulthood. They will need to draw on their past experience to help them overcome the tremendous challenges they will face as young adults – many without a support system – but I am confident they will achieve success. I am so very proud of our youth and what they have achieved today.”
This year’s speaker has something in common with them. Inky Johnson, an inspirational speaker from Atlanta, was headed for a career in the National Football League before an injury crushed his dreams. He turned the life-changing event around into a positive, and now speaks to young people, businesses and others about perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles.
On Thursday, he will speak to a group of teens who have overcome abuse, neglect, separation from their families and friends and many other hurdles to graduate high school. The all have grand plans to be a “star” as they enter their next life phase.
Hamilton County Job and Family Services currently cares for about 1,100 foster children a day and has nearly 300 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 .