Using the Past to Create a Positive Future
My name is Andrew, and I'm 21. My parents divorced when I was about 5, and my mom met another guy who put both of us through extreme abuse. Things were so bad that when I was 7, child protective services took me away from my family. I spent almost 12 years in foster and group homes, some of which were also very abusive. Growing up in foster homes was extremely hard for me; I was hospitalized many times and moved almost every month and a half. I never had a chance to make friends or get to know my own family. Because of these experiences I was always in trouble in school and was never given the support that I needed, so my grades were really bad. After I was in the ninth grade four times, I started feeling hopeless. I dropped out of high school and locked myself away from the world. I put up many walls, and it was hard for me to trust the world and the people in it.
Since I've aged out of foster care, I've opened up and let down those walls. I earned my high school diploma. The things that stopped me in the past became the things that not only helped me become who I am today, but also made me an advocate for youth who have been and are going through the same difficulties I had.
As a representative of Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others Through Voices of Experience) North Carolina, I have spoken to the U.S. Senate and taken part in a testimonial video with national advocacy organizations. I was the first young adult ever to be on a panel of experts on trauma for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress!
I attend my local and State system of care collaborative meetings as well as other national advocacy events through North Carolina Families United, the State chapter of the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health. I train other young adults on transition issues so they can be better prepared for life as an adult.
I have taken my past and used it to help make a positive difference in the lives of other people!